Facebook has rolled out a new ad product that it says will make car listings more effective by keeping shoppers on Facebook rather than driving them to dealerships. 

Dubbed “On-Facebook Destination for Automotive Inventory Ads,” the product gives dealers the option to capture customers on Facebook and keep them there for their first dealer interactions. 

By taking advantage of on-Facebook communication, including through Messenger, more customers will reach out and connect, the company says. That’s because when customers click on an ad, a Facebook inventory ad opens much faster than a vehicle-detail page on a separate dealership website.

And according to Facebook, 55% of US consumers surveyed aren’t willing to wait for a web page to load while shopping.

“Facebook’s usage is 95% mobile,” Facebook’s head of Automotive Retail Bob Lanham (LinkedIn profile) told the AIM Group. “So this ad unit is designed to instantly load.”

Facebook claims that during testing, the destination feature reduced the cost of leads by 82% and the cost per content view by 17% when compared to driving traffic to dealerships.

Facebook stresses that the new offering is just an option, and that dealers who want to drive ad traffic to the dealership can continue to do so.

Lanham notes, however, that dealers who get the most out of the new option have a solid process for responding to queries through Messenger.

By way of explanation, Lanham said he had a conversation with 60 dealers at an industry conference this year in Chicago.

“I posed a question to the group, I said, if we created an ad unit that drove to Facebook Marketplace as opposed to your dealership, would you care? One dealer goes, ‘Nope, I just want to close the sale. I don’t care where it goes.’ Then another dealer goes, ‘Marketplace sucks — you guys should just close it down!’

“Then another dealer goes, ‘Tom, you’re crazy. It (Marketplace) is my number-one source for used-car leads and my number-one close rate.”

Lanham said he discussed the issue in more detail with all  three dealers and found out the Marketplace fan had a system in place wherein customer texts on Messenger were always handled by a salesperson at the dealership. Whereas the Facebook critic outsourced his Messenger communications to a third-party company’s call center.

Lanham said the new On-Facebook Destination feature should be available in 100% of Facebook’s global markets by early October.

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