Edmunds.com struggles with simplifying car estimations on mobile


Edmunds’ app

SAN ANTONIO, TX An Edmunds.com executive at eTail West said that the company has struggled to carry out innovation such as picture capturing within its mobile products while at the same time delivering seamless utility.

During The Role of Mobile Devices Today: A Selling Channel vs. a Marketing Channel session, executives from Edmunds.com, Travelocity, Rue La La, Ice and ForeSee discussed how to find utility in mobile for consumers. The panel was moderated by Jason Baadsgaard, senior vice president of client development at Conversant, Boulder, CO.

Were trying to cut down the challenges of search by using the camera of the phone, said Mike Woods, former director of mobile and emerging technologies at Edmunds.com, Santa Monica, CA. When you look at cars, an individual model of car can have a wide price range, from $30,000 to $70,000, depending on all the options you pack in.

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We built a section where you can take a picture of the sticker on the car, he said. We would have somebody filter out what that car was and send you the price tailored for that person. We launched that as a test with a lean startup approach.

We discovered that theres challenges with pictures. Getting a clear picture of a window sticker is very difficult. We actually took an arrow on that one, and werent getting enough clean pictures to use them, but its something well continue to experiment with down the line. How can you use the phone to get through an arduous experience.

Mobile utility
Edmunds.com guides consumers through purchasing a car, and the company embraced mobile more as trial-by-fire at first, but now views mobile as a core part of its business.

According to Mr. Woods, the companys mobile traffic increased from six percent to 38 percent in less than six months.

While the photo feature encountered some difficulties, the company is still seeing value in finding utility across devices.

Ice.com started out on mobile by creating a feature on its app that let consumers virtually try on a ring by taking a picture of their finger and placing jewelry on top of it.

We found that people were using it as a utility and it really helped the research aspect, said Pinny Gniwisch, founder of Ice, Austin, TX. And as time went on we saw more traffic, so we went into the mobile site. And we saw that 30 percent of our traffic was using mobile, so it was a no brainer.

Other examples that came up in the panel were the Lowes app, which directs consumers to the exact aisle and shelf where a product is located in store, as well as ABCs app which sends a reminder to consumers before a show is airing.

Using things that are underutilized on phones like reminders its simple execution stuff thats really powerful from a consumers perspective., said Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media and entertainment at ForeSee, Ann Arbor, MI.

The panel

Room for improvement
According to Mr. Feinberg, 90 percent of bigger retailers optimize for phone but just as many are not optimized for tablets, pointing to a lost opportunity in meeting consumers expectations.

What it really comes down to is enabling consumers to access a product whenever and however.

Its illustrative of the point here which is if youre not there, youre not in the place where a sale might happen, he said. Youre going to miss a conversion.

Mr. Feinberg also believes that brands need to expand their definitions of ROI and value for mobile.

The push back is, Oh were seeing more sales here, the traffic may be there but not the sales, Mr. Feinberg said. It is about a mobile-influenced sale. We should start to teach our executive team these types of phrases.

Its about how mobile contributes to business or influences it, he said. There are ways to quantify it.

Commanding the importance of mobile relative to these other industries, the Web team and store team, theyre institutionalized so they have more budget, but theres no reason why that should be. If you fast forward ten years well all be on the same playing field, its just a matter of time.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

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