The Value – Issue #20: Canadian Black Book’s Investment in Automotive Online Behavior Shows Surprising Results

August 20 2019
Michele Fariello

Welcome to Canadian Black Book's - The Value. Our goal is to provide our clients and partners with news, event updates, new initiatives and opinions from Canada’s trusted source for vehicle values and automotive insights. In this edition we cover:

By: Cole Reiken, Vice-President of Digital Strategy and Product Management

Over the past few months Canadian Black Book has endeavored into a number of initiatives to gain a better understanding of the behaviors of online vehicle shoppers.  Ultimately the goal for our firm is to better comprehend what online car buyers are doing, where they spend their time on and offline, and what can be done to improve the overall experience.

Key to the learning is a focus specifically on how online behavior can translates to physical bricks and mortar dealership visits.  One such initiative is recently conducted consumer research to gauge the effectiveness of at encouraging and driving foot traffic into dealerships.

Given the large volumes of traffic on the site, specific to car shopping and research, a number of very interesting key learnings were observed identifying consumer behaviors and measuring the impact of OEM ads.  Among other things, the study highlighted statistics about web traffic converting into foot traffic at dealerships; how effective ads on are compared to industry benchmarks; and the time it takes between website visits and actually entering the dealership.

As one would assume, our annual survey of users on and the most recent online to offline user study suggested that the most important information consumers want from the site is the free vehicle valuation data, in the form of trade-in values and average asking price.  Historically, our consumer research into led us to believe that visitors to the site were low in the purchase funnel and nearing a purchase decision.   We now know that 43% of users who completed a valuation intend to purchase a vehicle within 30 days.  55% of consumers who accessed valuations, as well as the classified listings, indicated that they would be in the market for a new ride in the next six months.

This was beginning to shed some bright light onto the behavior of our web traffic, but we wanted more.

So we took our research a step further.  We began dissecting the analytics of our web traffic and comparing monthly numbers to market retail numbers.  For example, we looked specifically at the number of valuations we provide per month compared to actual unit retail sales.  A correlation between the two data points emerged, when we moved the retail sales data back thirty days, a consistent trend became apparent. We can clearly see, based on the volume of valuations instances, the direction of sales volumes for the following month.  If our valuations numbers are down in August, that will suggest sales to decline in September, and so forth.  This fortified our ongoing hypothesis that we had a majority of in-market shoppers on

Again, great insights, but we still wanted to learn more.

In steps leading mobile tracking and attributions firm, Freckle IoT, to answer a number of other questions we had.  The collaboration with Freckle allowed us to look deeper into our online users while also noting targeted offline activities and subsequent comparisons to industry benchmarks.

The results were incredible. We learned how users interreacted with different sections of the website and how that impacts their offline dealership visitation habits.  For instance, we see that users who view an advertisement on were 38 times more likely to visit a dealership than the industry average.  This supported the data we had already learned from our survey which suggested the viewer of an ad on the site visited a dealership within two weeks and 31% within one week!  Site visitors who browse the classified section, consume less ads before physically visiting a dealer location.

The Freckle study indicated that 76% of traffic shop close to home, travelling 20 kms or less to their local dealership.  An interesting stat for advertisers is that 80% of the top dealerships visited in the study, were supported by OEM advertisements running on the during the time of the study.

These are just a fraction of the findings across the various studies conducted.  However, what can be gleaned from the bottom line is that investing in online advertising within the auto space, is worthwhile on a web property where the majority of the audience are actively in market and ready to purchase a vehicle in the short term.