‘Where conversations happen’: Why cars.com is using Facebook Marketplace

Cars.com is putting its wares on sale on Facebook Marketplace. The company says it’s not ready to ditch its own site, but that it has to be where its customers are.

The 20-year-old automotive marketplace was an early mover in e-commerce. It works with 20,000 car dealers that post products to its site, but the company has come to terms with the tendencies of Facebook users to search for cars through that site’s marketplace. It claims its site gets an average of 18.9 monthly unique visitors.

“What we’re seeing on Facebook is the average shoppers are everyday people exploring automotive [products],” said Brooke Skinner Ricketts, chief marketing officer at cars.com. “We need to go where conversations happen.”

Cars.com rolled out a Facebook Marketplace page in August of this year. Among prospects that seek out information through a Facebook messenger bot, 40 percent of them convert to leads that want to connect with client dealers, she said.

Since the marketplace launched in August, the company said 218,000 chats via Facebook Messenger have taken place between car shoppers and dealers. The number of chats and lead conversions is increasing every week, according to the company.

To cars.com, a Facebook Marketplace presence amplifies and doesn’t detract from the core site — it’s just meant to widen the potential customer base.

It’s the latest in a trend: Marketers and selling platforms are increasingly looking to Facebook Marketplace as a means to grow reach. In August, Shopify began talking to Facebook on building capabilities for merchants it works with to sell on Facebook marketplace.

“Our strategy is to help propel the future of automotive retail; to a certain extent we have to be agnostic about where that happens and think about how do we best facilitate and build partnerships like the one we have with Facebook Marketplace,” she said.

The company also posts ads on platforms like Amazon and Pinterest, and Ricketts said she’s watching their evolution as it affects buyer behavior. She said cars.com has a breadth of experience in the automotive sector, and customers still aren’t ready to go all in on car buying through Amazon. She acknowledged, however, that Amazon is growing and she doesn’t rule out moves to sell on Amazon in the future.

“A lot of times people are selling automotive parts [on Amazon], but not cars themselves,” she said. While some brands like Hyundai have rolled out Amazon stores, it’s still early in the game for Amazon as a car-buying platform.

While Facebook offers analytics for car sellers posting items to its marketplace, Ricketts said cars.com offers sellers access to cars.com first-party data to help them target ads to prospects.

Despite Ricketts’ enthusiasm about the potential of Facebook Marketplace as a channel, some marketers are still hesitant to invest in it, noting that it can’t match the scale of Amazon.

“Right now, [Facebook] Marketplace seems more like a Craigslist than an Amazon or e-commerce platform,” Mark Sytsma, associate director of paid social at Huge, recently told Digiday.

But others say the reach of Facebook Marketplace, due to its vast number of users, means it’s just too big to ignore for brands. Eight hundred million people use Marketplace every month, according to Facebook. Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG, said Facebook is a great fit for car dealers.

“When you look at the number of people using Marketplace every day, it’s hundreds of millions of people — there’s a whole constituency of people using it all the time,” he said. “Nobody’s watching the 5 p.m. news; if you’re a brand and trying to market, you need to fish where the fish are.”

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