In today’s world, many brands are seeing the need to increase their online presence. Some are doing this to great effect, while others are floundering. One of the major success stories has been AutoTrader. Michael Bratt spoke to company CEO George Mienie to find out what prompted the move, and why it has been such a success.
Offering a digital platform for the buying and selling of new and used cars, other types of vehicles as well as associated motoring services, AutoTrader was once a fully-fledged magazine business selling more than 100 000 copies a month. By 2013 demand for the magazine was declining and something had to be done, the choice was made to migrate the product online. Mienie elaborates, “By the mid-2000s, the internet was going mainstream, placing massive pressure on industries that only a few years earlier had seemed untouchable. The print industry in particular was coming under threat, with readers moving to the internet for information. Things didn’t change overnight, though. The general decline in readership was steady but quite slow. We however were not willing to accept death by attrition.”
Getting ahead of the trends
Luckily AutoTrader was able to move its business online, ahead of this trend as it was seen coming. “As with anything, keeping a close eye on trends means the signs of change are often easy to see, provided you pay attention. We, at AutoTrader saw this trend early and we knew that this was the opportune time to shift paradigms and lead the charge. Migration into digital started off a little slow back in 2008 but started gaining momentum in 2013, meaning its success wasn’t guaranteed. We worked hard to migrate the loyal magazine readers to using the AutoTrader website,” Mienie says.
Enhanced offerings for advertisers
The site now sees “millions of buyers, who view over 60 million pages each month”. Alongside this are enhanced revenue opportunities. Mienie explains that the shift to digital has significantly increased the ways advertisers can showcase their stock to a much bigger audience of car buyers. AutoTrader’s research has led to the creation of tailor-made value-based packages, which are suited to drive more response to dealers’ adverts.
Making online a better experience than print
One of the main elements that were focused on during the process was how the website was crafted. AutoTrader made sure it was user-friendly and that it was something special, “We made sure we crafted an effective website that not only offered the consumer an even BETTER experience than the magazine, but one that also had content tailored to entice the consumer to stay on our site – almost getting them to treat it like a one-stop shop to complete their car-shopping journey,” Mienie explains.
The importance of digital offerings to consumers
Not only does digital offer new things for advertisers, it also provides insights into the buying journey of consumers through research and also observing market and technology trends. “A key example of this is mobile. We knew the shift to mobile was coming and as a result we designed a cutting edge fully mobile responsive site. Car buyers can search on the go on any screen and have the same experience,” Mienie says.
Mienie’s top tips
When asked what his tips are to other brands looking to move their business online or to enhance their already existing presence, Mienie listed his top 5:
- Identify trends
- Track all change using relevant and measurable KPIs
- Research and know your customer
- Don’t be afraid to act preemptively
- Create an impeccable user experience
Mienie concludes by re-emphasising a point he made earlier, clearly the most important element to him, “Remember to always keep a close eye on trends within your industry. The signs of change are often easy to see, all you need to do is pay attention.”
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8
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