Grade A+

“Dad, I got all A’s – Google’s New Attribution Release”

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by: Darren Haygood

I’m a father of 3 teenagers.  And this past week, my oldest had final exams at school to wrap up the year.  Of course, like any parent, I asked about how she did on her tests? Imagine how skeptical I’d be if she replied with, “Dad, I got all A’s!”

Skeptical, I’d probably ask, “Well how’d you find out the results so quickly?”

 “It’s simple Dad, I graded them myself!”

There’s been a lot of speculation and commentary this past week around Google’s Attribution Announcement.  But my point of view is quite simple – self-reporting simply doesn’t pass the common sense test.  Now more than ever, businesses should require independent analysis and validation when it comes to measuring the performance of their digital marketing investments.

Now, I recognize as the leader of a small, independent analytics company, it’s not hard to see why I believe there’s an inherent conflict of interest when the BIG company with the colorful bicycles serves as judge and jury for the performance of their own platform.

 But keep in mind, WE, as an industry, use third-party validation in most of the other key areas that influence our business.

Two clear examples, Reviews and Used Car Valuations.

Would anyone believe the reviews from a dealership, if they were all supplied by the employees and sales people at that dealership?  Of course everyone there would tell you they provide the best customer experience, etc.  What makes reviews credible and relevant is the fact that they come from the actual consumer, and there’s a transparent mix of good and bad.

Used Car values are another shining example where the consumer relies on independent tools/platforms like KBB, BlackBook, etc. to verify and validate what their vehicle is worth.

So again, I’ll ask, since dealers are the actual “consumer” of Google’s ad platform, why would the same logic not apply?  If you were buying a home, would you really let the realtor that’s selling you the house also serve as the home inspector? 

Contractor-1“Looks good to me!”

Now let’s be clear, Google is a critical partner in your advertising strategy.  And effectively managing your campaigns to optimize your ROI is something EVERY dealer should be doing.  And the good news here is, if you’re a GA certified whiz and you’re using their dashboard to inform and analyze the effectiveness of your digital marketing spend, they’ve just made it easier for you to utilize their tools – for free – so you can monitor and measure this yourself.  And that’s a good thing.

I’m just saying, you shouldn’t let them grade their own report card.

Request your own independent Attribution Study “CLICK HERE

Third-Party Sites Fuel Dealership Growth

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Over the past 2 years, TRANSPARENCY has partnered with and other aggregate publishers to help dealers better understand the value of the third-party automotive site audience. Our goal continues to be simple. We help our publisher partners and their dealer clients to answer the meaningful, relevant questions that will inform better decisions regarding their digital marketing  investments:

What is helping me sell more vehicles? What is helping me service more vehicles? What marketing investments are truly GROWING my business?

Clear insights that GM’s and owners have been asking for, for years!


And as more and more consumers prefer to shop anonymously, gathering information across different devices, browsers  and multiple sessions, it’s imperative that dealers don’t make advertising decisions based solely on the small number of actual leads they can track via their CRM solutions.

Alex Vetter, CEO of recently shared his view of the importance of making decisions with the right data, decisions that ultimately help the industry grow. “The game has changed,” said Vetter. “The marketplace is more crowded than ever and there’s no shortage of data available, but it’s important to pay attention to and measure the right data. The insights we’re learning about walk-in traffic and what’s truly driving sales is critical to succeeding in today’s environment.”


We compiled a comprehensive analysis for all dealers that we’ve completed attribution studies within Q1 of 2017 for Through our proprietary process and methodology, we start with the dealer’s DMS transactional data (Sales and Service). We then match to the IP address of the consumers in the dealer’s market, anonymize their private information and then cross reference against the anonymous IP data supplied by


Once we identify the matching sales and service transactions, we then look back 5 years in the dealer’s DMS data, to see if the customer has ever previously purchased or serviced with that dealer. If not, then we can determine they’re a true conquest customer.

After compiling and analyzing the data from over 150 dealerships across the country, the results might surprise you!

Overall  Influenced Audience influenced 60% of the average dealerships’ consumers (sales & service)1. influenced an average of 63 sales per month per dealer (New & Used1 combined) 67.821  % of which were  1 first-time sales*1. That’s 43 sales per month per dealer that haven’t purchased or had serviced from/with the dealer previously in the last five (5) years.

Customers aren’t just shopping for used cars on

In addition, we measured the impact of the audience as a percentage of the dealer’s TOTAL business.

Service Insights

When it comes to service, is helping to drive service business as well. Over 38% of the dealership’s total service customers engaged with, with an average of over 440 RO’s per dealer/mth, delivering over $91,000 of profit/mth during  Q1. On average, 53 of those RO’s were true conquest service customers for the dealer – historically one of the hardest and most expensive type of conquest customers for a dealer to acquire.

To request a copy of the case study, or your own attribution report from, simply CLICK HERE.

Cars Logo

TRANSPARENCY performed studies for dealers to help them understand the value of’s audience and its impact on sales, service, and growth. In Q1 2017, TRANSPARENCY complied a comprehensive analysis from over 150 dealerships across the country and found:

CARS.COM Influences Sales

Overall, had a significant influence on new (63%) and used (74%) car sales and influenced over 46% of TOTAL sales for the dealerships included in the study.

CARS.COM Attracts First-Time Sales influenced 63 sales per month, per dealer (new and used combined). Of the sales, 67.2% were first-time sales* – that’s 43 sales per month, per dealer from new customers that haven’t purchased or serviced with the dealer previously in the last five years.

CARS.COM Fuels Growth influenced 60% of the average dealerships’ sales and service transactions. And, when it comes to service, over 38% of the dealerships total service customers engaged with, with an average of over 440 RO’s per dealer, per month, delivering over $91,000 of profit per month during Q1. On average, 53 of those RO’s were true conquest service customers for the dealer – historically one of the hardest and most expensive type of conquest customers for a dealer to acquire.

CLICK HERE to download the Transparency Case Study

* First-time sales are defined as customers that have not purchased or serviced at the dealership in the past five (5) years.  Data Source – 164 attribution studies completed in Q1 2017 Transaction Date Range – 12/1/16 – 3/31/17
AutoNews Ford

Firm Checks 3rd-Party Success Rate: Attribution Studies Zero in on Digital Leads

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Heath Thompson was getting ready to stop advertising on Autotrader and cut back on digital spending last fall at his rural Georgia store when the company, hoping to retain the contract, offered to do an attribution study to show Autotrader’s influence.

Thompson, general manager of Ronnie Thompson Ford in East Ellijay, Ga., agreed to the study. He was surprised by what he learned.

Data analytics firm Transparency, which does the studies for Cox Automotive’s third-party sites Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, examined the store’s dealership management system and other data between May 1 and August 31. It found that 63 percent of the dealership’s customers during that span had visited Autotrader or KBB before purchasing a vehicle.


The study attributed 41 sales to the sites, six of them first-time buyers. Transparency classified first-time buyers as customers who hadn’t transacted at the dealership in the past five years.

The findings were a revelation for Thompson, who realized he could attribute 30 percent of his monthly gross to visitors of Autotrader or KBB. Before, he estimated the monthly gross figure at less than 10 percent.

Thompson said a quarter of the customers at his rural store don’t have email. He didn’t believe so many of his clients were shopping online before coming to the showroom.

“I would’ve called somebody a liar if they tried to tell me 63 percent of customers shopped online before they showed up to my dealership,” Thompson said. The study “has a lot of great information for dealers, especially dealers who were in the position I was in [where I] was ready to cut out a big portion of the Internet business.”

He added, “It wound up showing me a lot more than I ever dreamed it would.”

Moving metal?

Cox Automotive’s attribution effort is just one of the latest examples of ways third-party sites are stepping up their capabilities to track consumer shopping behavior. In the process, some sites are attempting to answer the most important question in digital marketing for dealers: Are my ads moving metal?

Stats such as vehicle detail page views and impressions are solid measurement tools from which dealerships can glean insights. But shopping portals know they have to provide even more detailed analysis to show their value in a digital world where a variety of players are vying for dealership ad dollars.

Cox Automotive began conducting its attribution studies with Transparency last year for thousands of dealerships on Autotrader and KBB that had inventory on the sites as of Sept. 1.

Transparency pairs consumer IP addresses with a store’s dealership management system transactional data and cross references it to matching IP addresses on Autotrader and KBB. The company doesn’t use cookies or tracking pixels to close the loop.

The limited-time Transparency studies, which Cox pays for, complement the volume metrics that stores normally get on KBB and Autotrader. These volume stats include the number of email exchanges and chat sessions stores get from ads and vehicle detail page views. The studies build on that data.

“We’ve got our dealers who are wanting to see direct influence and direct attribution versus just an inference on it and volume numbers on their sites,” said Brian Geitner, president of the Cox Automotive Media Solutions Group.


Connecting site visits to sales is how TrueCar makes its money.

Brian Skutta, TrueCar’s executive vice president of dealer sales and service, said the site has been devoted to a direct-attribution model since its inception.

But TrueCar’s billing model, which charges dealers for sales even if a consumer visited multiple shopping sites, has come under fire from the likes of AutoNation Inc. in recent years.

When a consumer generates a lead on TrueCar or one of its 500-plus affiliate partners, the site tracks them. When the deal is closed and becomes a “sold record” in a store’s reporting system, TrueCar matches the lead to the transaction through a process it calls sales matching that taps into store data.

While some may doubt this technique, Skutta said TrueCar’s closed loop model opens opportunities for the site to consult with dealers on the performance of their listings. This can include examining lost sales, defined as people who came through the TrueCar system, were introduced to a dealer but decided to buy at another store.

Skutta said TrueCar can use its sales analyzer tool to track all of a dealership’s sales down to the ZIP code.

“What we’re doing is tracking consumer behavior before our site and while in our site,” Skutta said. “We’re also tracking the dealer’s lead-handling processes, and then we put the aggregate of those three together to be able to go back and talk to the dealer on how to be better and convert more sales.”

Skutta said the industry is still trying to get its head around attribution, especially when gauging the quality of site visits. Some dealers are putting more emphasis on first-touch attribution, while Skutta said others focus on who touched a consumer last to figure out which sites had the biggest impact on a shopper’s decision. has linked with digital marketing company Clarivoy to give dealers a multitouch perspective through Google Analytics. This lets prove its impact on the shopping journey in an age where consumers visit multiple sites before buying.

Dealers who focus only on last-touch attribution are overlooking the various stages of the shopping process that led consumers down the funnel in the first place, said Clarivoy CEO Steve White.

He said Clarivoy’s multitouch attribution system can show dealers how much of a role played.

Clarivoy said at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in January that it was placing analytics tags on so it can track consumers who visit the third-party site’s vehicle display pages, don’t click on anything but, based on what they see, later visit a dealership’s website.

This tracking allows Clarivoy to say, “ was responsible for that sale, or played a role in it,” White told Automotive News during the convention. “They don’t want to take all the credit., we’ll give them 33 percent credit for that sale.”

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at — Follow Vince on Twitter: @VinceBond86


Bacon is Good for You!

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DEALERS – It’s time to put your digital marketing budget on a Diet!  However, you might be surprised to learn what you should be cutting from your “diet” and what you can now actually “enjoy.”

As I get older, I’m always trying to do the best I can to make sure I eat right.  So imagine my surprise when I learned that I can actually enjoy bacon and make it a regular part of my diet plan, AND learn that it’s actually good for me? And while we’re at it, let’s throw butter into the conversation.  For years, I substituted butter with margarines and low-fat this and that, when in fact, it turns out that REAL butter is actually much better for me.

Big companies have been trying to influence my eating habits and purchase decisions with catchy slogans and claims that it’s the “healthy choice” and that their product is better for me. But, when you look at the data, the facts clearly show traditional, natural products that most consumers really enjoy (and prefer over substitutes), actually benefit me just as much, if not better.  Sound familiar?

As I look at the changing landscape of digital marketing spend, I’m reminded that my new paleo diet has many similarities with where we are in our industry and the interesting choices we face regarding how we should best spend our ad dollars.

In my conversations with dealers all over the country, Attribution has become a big topic of conversation, and a common theme of my discussions is their desire to reduce waste in advertising for 2017 and beyond.  Third-party publisher sites like,, Kelley Blue Book, CarGurus and others, usually stand out on your list of digital marketing investments due to the size of your monthly investment with them. However, the most common mistake dealers are making is targeting and/or reducing their investment with these third-party publisher partners.

As an industry, we still try to measure the performance of our marketing investments in terms of leads, clicks and visitors.  And since only a very small percentage of customers actually submit a lead from these publisher sites, the sourcing reports in your CRM give you completely misleading information.

Man on scaleMeasuring your digital performance using your CRM sourcing report is like stepping onto a scale that’s lying to you!  You think you’re losing weight, but you’re not really getting any healthier.

Having completed over 2,000 studies for dealers all across the country, analyzing over 7.5 million consumer transactions, the data is clear.  The data we’ve captured, using the dealer’s actual DMS transactions as the baseline, provides surprising insights as to:

  • How consumers engage with these third-party sites prior to purchasing or servicing their vehicle
  • The overall size and influence of the third-party audience
  • How many of these consumers that are truly “new” or “acquired” customers for Dealers each month

Don’t be distracted by colored bicycles, catchy slogans and fancy graphics and dashboards that attempt to distract you from getting answers to the simple, straightforward questions you’ve been asking for years when it comes to your advertising investments:

How many cars did I sell and how much money did I make?

If you’d like to measure performance based in terms of dollars and cents and the actual transactions.., not clicks, impressions, or the number of visitors you receive, CLICK HERE to analyze your data and request an attribution study.

Start your new Digital Diet plan today, by eliminating the real “fat” in your marketing budget and start enjoying the benefits of a new “healthier” plan that actually delivers the results you’re looking for – more sales and a higher return on your investment.

And besides, who doesn’t love bacon, right?


NOW HIRING – Hoverboard Department Manager

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by: Darren Haygood

I have a question.  Wouldn’t we all agree that the data that’s within your CRM solution is “bad”?  I don’t know of a single dealership that would finalize their accounting statement based on the information that comes out of their CRM.

But if this is true, and if “last click” attribution is so outdated and inaccurate, then why do so many dealers still make important marketing and advertising decisions based on the sourcing information that’s within their CRM?

Before we answer this question, I think it’s important for us to first understand…

 “How did we get here?”

You’ve got to remember, CRM’s were built back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s based around classifying customers by “Type”, i.e. Walk-In, Phone-Up, Internet and “Other”.  At the time, the internet was just starting to emerge within our industry and we wanted to properly track how many “leads” we were receiving from these internet providers.  Fast forward almost 20 years, and unfortunately we’re still measuring and classifying customers this way.

Guess what folks, they’re ALL Walk-Ins!  How else would they get there? They didn’t come in on a Hoverboard!  But let’s imagine if they did…

“Ah, Mr. Smith, I see you came in on a Hoverboard.  I’ll put you down as a “Hoverboard” customer.”

And at the end of the month, your GM notices,

“Wow, we had 156 Hoverboard customers this past month!  Those things are really becoming popular.  I guess we should hire a “Hoverboard Dept. Manager”, because the needs of those hoverboard customers are different.” 

Sounds ridiculous, right?  But how many dealership’s still have an Internet Sales Department Manager?  Or an “Internet Sales” comp plan? Guess what folks, there’s NO SUCH THING as an “Internet” customer either.  They’re ALL Internet customers too! 

In 2017, there are only two (2) types of customers, Sales and Service. PERIOD. 

And once you understand that the “Type” foundation is flawed, then making ANY marketing decisions based around information contained within the “Source” report that is a subset of the “Type” breakdown, is truly flawed logic.

Now please don’t misunderstand my point.  Don’t go firing your Internet Sales Manager, or cancelling your CRM.   Your ISM is probably the best “Data Analyst” you have at the dealership.  And CRM solutions are a vital and essential tool to any successfully run dealership.  But you’ve got to utilize them for how they were intended, as a “Customer Relationship Management” solution and not a “Marketing Decision Management” tool.

Stay tuned for our ground breaking, first of it’s kind, case study, where we worked with a major publisher and a top 10 dealer group, to redefine the “Type” of customers that visit your dealership and share how to better manage and leverage the data that’s within your CRM. 


Attribution – The Start of a Conversation

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by: Jon Lamb 

The challenge with digital marketing is trying to measure the effectiveness of your advertising. Like so many other buzz words that fly around our industry, Attribution is already suffering from overuse and failed application.  First it was reputation management, then social media, followed by a brief push for VDPs, localized SEO, etc, yet we’re still trying to prove ROI. As an industry, until we stop using advances in marketing technology as an opportunity to build yet another siloed, commoditized product, but rather develop an open and transparent B2C stack, the overspending and misuse of digital media will continue.

As a company, we were the first to provide transactional attribution from an unknown online consumer.  And we did this without using or implementing tracking pixels, tags, form submittals and cookies of any kind.  As is common with most new solutions, some may question our approach, as it challenges traditional thinking and widely accepted beliefs. Our attempt to define attribution at first touch, multi-touch, and last touch actually clouds standardized reporting and allows for biased interpretation if not fully understood.

We did not design and file a patent in an attempt to show the value or effectiveness of one vendor over another.  Following our ethos, our self-imposed mission was to, for the first time, provide retailers with the transactional value of the audience that’s using their marketing platform/site. We did not build Transparency for specific publisher, SEM marketer, or social media agency; we built it for the automotive industry and all verticals that have difficulty defining the value of their unknown online audience. Attribution starts the conversation.  How we as an industry choose to apply our technology will determine its impact and ability to advance automotive retailing.