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CarGurus: Delivering great deals with data and analytics

Joe DosSantos, Chief Data Officer at Qlik, speaks to Matt Quinn, CTO of CarGurus, about the car dealer’s digital transformation journey.

Matt Quinn

Chief Technology Officer, CarGurus

First, tell us a bit about CarGurus and the CarGurus business model.

Founded in 2006, CarGurus was originally created as a place for consumers to review cars, before pivoting to become a marketplace that takes an inventory from our member dealers to list on our site and help customers find a great deal. Fueling our initial growth and IPO, the marketplace provides a transparent shopping experience to customers via IMV (Instant Market Value) that tells the customer how good the deal is on the cars in their search.

In the past few years, the company has evolved even further and added a portfolio of products that covers the entire spectrum of car buying, from dealer wholesale transactions to consumer retail online car purchases and financing. Our acquisition of CarOffer in 2021 allowed us to move into the wholesale market, providing dealers with the capability to acquire inventory through an automated wholesale matrix that includes bidding and logistics. We also recently released Digital Deal, a solution that allows consumers to jump-start the car-buying process online – completing steps like search, deposit, and financing – before completing their purchase in the dealership.

With CarGurus being a digital first company, you must rely on data and analytics to support your interactions with the customer. How do you leverage data and analytics in your business model?

We rely on data and analytics heavily to benefit both our customers and our dealers. Our IMV calculation uses a multivariate regression that includes a proprietary set of variables to determine the right price for the vehicle and show a customer if they are getting a good deal. This transparency helps us build trust with our shoppers by virtue of our good, better, best deal search rankings, powered by complex and highly refined statistical analysis of dozens of factors. We are constantly refining this algorithm to provide more transparency.

Given our history and traffic, we have one of the largest first-party automotive datasets in North America. This allows us to provide our dealers with significant insights to drive their business. We use this data, along with a modern data technology stack, to provide near real-time insights to dealers. One example is our Market Intelligence tool which shows supply and demand within a geography for different cars. This could allow a regional dealer to move cars to locations where demand for a particular car is higher, or an independent dealer to submit bids into CarOffer for cars that are higher demand in their zip code. Regardless of the size of the dealer, these tools provide insights dealers can’t acquire elsewhere, and our data stack allows us to deliver this information almost instantly.

With digital commerce moving so quickly, I would think that getting timely data would be key to influencing customer and prospect decision-making. How have expectations on real-time data changed over the past 5 years with respect to data for the customer and data for the employee?

There has been a sea change in expectations for real-time data in the past five years. In the same way I take for granted that my mobile phone should now have hundreds of gigabytes of storage - a concept that was unheard of years ago when I first started programming - now customers of our analysis and dashboards expect real-time results on massive computational analytics that previously would take hours to execute. Delivering results almost instantly enables our sales team to make the most well-informed decisions possible on the right products to offer a dealer. It enables our employees to evaluate the results of an A/B test faster and subsequently release a better customer experience to users sooner. And it benefits our customers because we can provide them with real-time recommendations for cars they might like based on prior searches. Our mission is to “give people the power to reach their destination”, and these real-time results help our dealers, employees, and customers do just that.

What types of analytics are required for your customers and your business to make the best decisions?

There are several ways we use data to drive results. As mentioned, our dealer customers gain tremendous insights from our data. One example is our Lead Intelligence product, which provides dealers with valuable insights on their new and engaged customer leads for prioritization, boosting sales conversion and potential revenue. We’re effectively placing a lead analytics capability directly in the hands of our dealers that allows them to sort, filter, and arrange their leads based on numerous parameters.

One of the key concepts of Active Intelligence is that not only are you providing data and analytics to the business, but you are driving action as a result. What are some examples of customer and employee actions that you are looking to drive in your digital experience?

Ultimately, we want any consumer shopping on our site to find a great deal on a car. Our IMV and sorting algorithms within our search results help to drive this by providing transparent and high-quality search results to customers on inventory – allowing them to quickly find the best deal on the car they want in seconds.

Internally, our analytics teams are creating gold standard reports on critical data needed to run the business as well as performing complex, ad-hoc queries that answer specific questions pertinent to a relevant effort. Our data stack and governance seek to maximize our analysts’ throughput by virtue of data transformations that provide the data they need to get the answers they want, when they want them.

What’s next on the CarGurus innovation journey?

The pandemic has highlighted customers’ desire to shop from the privacy of their homes, and we have already added new products that allow them to get financing or sell an existing vehicle online. Instant Max Cash Offer, our solution for selling your car online, provides the best offer from thousands of dealers across the country.

We are committed to becoming increasingly data-driven - to bring real-time analytics and transparency to consumers and dealers to create the best, most transparent marketplace for buying and selling, resulting in value for us and them.

Thank you to key members of our data team for informing many of my answers: Alex Kotsakis, Jessamine Bleiler, and Ivan Ceraj.

Matt Quinn

Chief Technology Officer, CarGurus

Matt Quinn joined CarGurus as Chief Technology Officer in January 2022, having worked in the Boston technology scene for over 25 years. Formerly Vice President of Engineering at small business referral network Alignable, he’s also led large development teams at Vistaprint, Amazon and Audible. He holds a Master’s of Science in Management from Emmanuel College and a B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science from the College of the Holy Cross.

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