494: Cars.com – Interview with Adobe Analytics Rock Star Audrey Salerno
Cars.com is a leading two-sided digital automotive marketplace that creates meaningful connections between buyers and sellers.Launched in 1998 and headquartered in Chicago, the company empowers consumers with resources and information to make informed buying decisions around The 4Ps of Automotive Marketing™: Product, Price, Place and Person, while connecting advertising partners with in-market car shoppers and providing data-driven intelligence to increase inventory turn and gain market share.
A pioneer in online automotive classifieds, the company has evolved into one of the largest digital automotive platforms, connecting tens of thousands of local dealers across the country with millions of consumers where they are and on their terms. Through trusted expert content, on-the-lot mobile features and intelligence, millions of new and used vehicle listings, a comprehensive set of pricing and research tools and the largest database of consumer reviews in the industry, Cars.com is transforming the car shopping experience.
Audrey Salerno is a quality-driven web analyst at Cars.com who enjoys looking at data in new ways to find actionable insights and new insights into visitor engagement. However, Audrey appeared on my radar when she was awarded the prestige of becoming an Adobe Analytics Rock Star.
The winners of the nation-wide Analytics Rock Star Tour share their smoking hot tips, tricks, and power strategies. These tips are sure to bring the house down and enable you to positively impact your business. This year Adobe is ramping up the fun with prizes for audience members who are willing to pick up the mic and participate with their stars.
I wanted to find out more about Audrey’s achievements and also how she will sharing hot tips at this year’s Adobe Summit where Rock Stars shared:
- Innovative practices and strategies to get your digital assets singing
- Out-of-the-box thinking on data analysis to optimize your business results
- Real-world tips & tricks that address challenging analytics questions
Neil: You’re a site analyst cars.com who is looking for new insights into visitor engagement and you’re also one of the winners of Adobe’s nationwide analytics Rockstar tour. I mean can you tell me a bit more about that and how you got involved with that, it’s so incredibly cool.
Audrey: Yeah. So I actually started out like straight out of college. I was a theoretical math major and kind of happened into analytics and thought it was really cool way to, you know, apply a lot of the things I’ve learned in from the theory into practice with real users and from the beginning I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about how the tool really worked, from, you know, how to pull the data, but also how all the data was coming into it, how it was tracked.
So I would work with the developers. I’m tracking, I would work with Pell analysts at building, you know, advanced analysis and dashboards. So one of the account managers came to me and told me about the rock star tour and she’s like, you really need to apply for this. So I submitted my tips. I got picked to be one of the people who was going to be presenting and then thankfully my peers liked my tips and voted me the winner in Chicago and so here I am and it’s been a great experience and it’s made me want to find ways to share my tips more often. So hopefully I’ll find a way to do that.
Neil: And are you known as a Rockstar in the office now?
Audrey: I’m, actually, it’s really funny. My face is all over the office right now, you know, good luck in Vegas. All of these things. So it’s, I’ve become this office celebrity which is really odd because I’m not a very, you know, outspoken or loud person in that regard.
Neil: So for anyone listening, can you expand on your session that you’re having on Thursday and what you’re going to be speaking about here at the summit?
Audrey: So my tips and tricks are around analyzing the engagement of your new visitors.
So my first tip is to basically take a cohort of your new visitors, give them time to engage with your site and bucket them into groups by their like visit level or visitor level engagement. So you know which of your visitors only have one visit and view only one page like their whole life is basically a bounce.
How many visitors are still only in one visit, but you know, have a handful of page views or and then how many of your visitors are your repeat visitors, right? The ones that you really want and so once you identify those different cohorts, you can see how well your site is retaining those new visitors, you know, if you have a low percentage of new visitors who are repeat over a period of time, then that might be something that you want to have be a KPI, something you want to strive to improve.
So then my second tip basically is how to use some of the custom date range functionality that Adobe has to trend that new visitor retention over time because that’s, you have to make kind of a complex calculated metric and you can’t just throw one on there and trend it based on how the tool works but because of these new calculated date ranges that they have, you can kind of make these little sandbox reports that lets you a trend the visitor re-engagement overtime.
Neil: Now there is a lot of focus on data and artificial intelligence at the moment but can you tell me how data informs the customer experience for a brand too. I think that’s something we don’t hear enough about.
Audrey: So cars.com has been using data to drive the customer experience for 20 years and we use the data all across the business, but on the site analytics team, we use data to help inform all stages of product development and that means from exploratory analysis to highlight opportunities to AB tests to measuring your daily KPIs? So we really do it from end to end, from the discovery to the execution on the site and then more recently our data science team has been using data and machine learning to build data-driven products for users to interact with on the site. Things like recommended vehicles and vehicle badging and things of that nature.
Neil: So do you have any examples of how you’re analyzing visitor participation using adobe analytics at cars.com and also help provide detailed insights into consumer behavior that actually help listeners visualize how you can really make a difference and deliver tangible results.
Audrey: So at cars, when we first started analyzing visitor participation, we took a cohort of new visitors like I was telling you about with my tips and we looked at their whole life cycle. We gave them a period of time to complete their car shopping process and we kind of divided those into different groups based on where they came to our site, what pages they viewed, and we identified different groups of either very engaged visitors and we also found that there were other pockets of not as engaged visitors. So we were able to kind of package up those insights about the lesser engaged visitors to give to the product organization to help them prioritize their efforts to increase engagement and grow their KPIs.
Neil: If we do have any business owners or leaders listening to us today, where do they start when wanting to look into data and find those new ways to find actionable insights, I mean, are there any bad habits that people need to retire once and for all, and where should I be looking for that hidden value?
Audrey: When starting off looking for actual insights, make sure you really understand your visitor engagement as a whole. Make sure you understand the performance of different sections of your site, how different traffic sources, for example, would influence your user engagement and see if there’s any low hanging fruit there and then you can start digging into trying to find those cohorts of highly engaged visitors as I was talking about and see if you can find things that they do that you could try and encourage your lesser engage visitors to do but as far as you know, where to start, I think that kind of ties into your bad habits, the question a little bit because the biggest thing you need to do is make sure that you’re not asking for an analysis to confirm what you want to hear.
So come to your analysis with lots of hypotheses, but an open mind. Let the data and the analysis speak for itself. It may not tell the original story that you were hoping for, but it almost always has some sort of actionable insight that you could take out of it.
Neil: Cool. So am I right in saying that this also involves spending time with developers to develop, debug and implement advanced tracking solutions right across the site?
Audrey: Yes. I do a lot of that actually and as I was telling you a little bit before, you know, that’s how I think it’s how I kind of got to the point where I am, where I really understand the data that’s coming in, you know, to be a successful analyst, I think you, you really do need to understand how you’re getting the data and you know, obviously not everybody’s going to be sitting down with developers but at least have an idea of how that’s being done.
As far as debugging is concerned, you know, unfortunately there’s always bugs and so, you know, do what you can with the debugging, make sure you have good relationships with your developers and then also kind of keeping the back of your mind ways that you might be able to, you know, fix bugs when there are issues, for example, was adobe analytics, you know, make sure you know how to use the processing rules and all those sorts of things but yeah, I think the key, you know, data quality is really important.
So having good relationships with the people who are implementing the tracking is the first step.
Neil: Keep them developers happier at the most.
Audrey: Yes, you know, make sure everybody’s on the same page, make sure you know there’s good documentation, you know, the cute insightful analyses and having actionable outcomes is the data quality. If you don’t have good data quality, you’re going to be spending way more time trying to clean things up. Then if you’re able to take the time to make sure it’s tracked right in the first place.
Neil: I suppose there’s going be a lot of companies that are going to be struggling to secure that developer time. So are companies like Adobe making that process a little easier without the box solutions or are we still a long way off from that?
Neil: So for anyone listening who would like to find out more information about anything that we’ve spoken about today or would just like to contact yourself a bit of advice or a more of those tips and tricks, what’s the best way to reach out to you guys?
Audrey: If you want to reach out to me, message me on my twitter, my handle is Audrey Salerno. I’m not very active, but I’ll definitely respond if people message me.
Neil: Cool. Well, I appreciate how busy you are and you are preparing for your big talk tomorrow so I wish you the best to look for that, but more than anything just thank you for taking the time to come and speak with me today.
Audrey: Thank you for having me.
- Connect with Audrey Salerno on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Visit Cars.com
- Follow Cars.com on Twitter or Facebook
- More information on the Adobe Analytics Rock Stars