Cars.com Drives PerformanceBy Samuel Greengard Print
An organization’s ability to offer a streamlined Web experience determines whether it accelerates past the competition—or crashes. Cars.com is turning Web 2.0 into a competitive advantage.
Staying ahead of the competition is never easy, but nowhere is the velocity of change more apparent than on the Web. Building and managing a world-class Website is a daunting and often overwhelming project. “Performance, security and the ability to display the right content quickly and seamlessly are crucial,” says Kayne Grau, vice president of technology at Cars.com. “It’s what differentiates a company.”
Few sites demand the complexity of Cars.com, which aggregates a tangle of data and presents it in a way that consumers can use to shop for vehicles, compare features, read reviews and obtain price quotes directly from dealerships. The company, a business unit of Classified Ventures, serves approximately 10 million car shoppers a month.
These days, Cars.com is shifting its technology platform into high gear. Using an integrated stack of IBM software to support sophisticated Web capabilities and, increasingly, advanced mobile tools, the 750-employee firm is wading into the Web 2.0 world with an array of widgets and features that make it easier for customers to view and extract the information they need.
Notes Grau: “Our goal is to exceed customer expectations by creating a rich user experience and providing the information people need to buy and sell cars more efficiently.”
Revving Up Results
Kicking tires and comparing features on automobiles can perplex even the savviest buyer. To make a wise buying decision, consumers must sort through a tangle of performance specs, an array of high-tech systems and a variety of safety features. Cars.com recognizes that simplicity equals clicks—and revenue—and a less-than-seamless experience drives traffic to other sites.
To provide the richest Web experience possible, Cars.com offers comprehensive pricing information, photo galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial content, expert car reviews and other content. The company earns revenue from online classified ads placed by automakers, dealers and private-party sellers. It also sells banner advertisements and provides lead-generation services.
“Our Website and business are founded on the premise that car shopping and selling should be a great experience,” Grau says. For Cars.com, this translates into a focus on award-winning content, sophisticated automotive research tools, and easy-to-access consumer and dealer reviews.
As a result, Cars.com has established a robust Website and online portals for dealers, employees and customers. Ten IBM pSeries servers, running WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Portal Server software, aggregate content and applications to provide business mashups of both internal and external data. The environment relies on Akamai for Web acceleration and IBM PowerVM server virtualization to manage IT resources effectively.
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