Integrating Web 2.0

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2011-06-14 Print this article 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.

However, the underlying infrastructure is simply a foundation for the company’s ambitious business model. Cars.com is currently integrating Web 2.0 technology wherever it adds value and streamlines interactions. The goal, Grau says, isn’t so much to achieve parity with other auto-comparison Websites, but to distinguish itself as an industry innovator that offers a powerful and easy-to-use platform.

Leveraging IBM’s PERL technology and ancillary tools, Cars.com delivers Web 2.0 content along with advanced features dynamically and on an on-demand basis, Grau explains. For example, one Web 2.0 initiative focuses on helping dealers list used vehicles at an optimal price when they place a classified ad.

Cars.com offers an AJAX-based widget that hits a back-end database and pulls dynamic information about inventory levels, buying trends and other factors.

Another Web 2.0 tool offers customers live data about incentives. When a potential buyer visits the Cars.com configuration tool and clicks through various automobiles and options, he or she sees the specific manufacturer and dealer incentives and rebates that currently exist—matched to the specific vehicle and exact configuration.

This capability, based on a mashup, eliminates the hassle of clicking to a different part of the Website and manually searching for the information. “It creates a real-time capability, or stickiness factor, for the customer,” Grau notes.

Steering Toward Success

An array of other Web 2.0 widgets and features already exist—or Cars.com has them in the works. For instance, the company is currently developing a master customer management system that will distribute customer data throughout the Cars.com enterprise. By interconnecting dozens of servers and systems operated by various data providers—including auto manufacturers, editorial content providers, organizations that rate cars and others—it’s possible to offer dynamically generated mashups that further streamline and support the auto buying experience.

The gains focus primarily on improved experience and greater internal productivity, Grau says. Web 2.0 culls and distributes a wide array of data from ERP, CRM and other enterprise systems.

Car.com is constantly looking for ways to propagate customer data throughout various systems. “We’re pulling data from different sources and finding ways to get it into our system faster so we can create competitive differentiation,” Grau says. “The goal is to make data available in real time.”

In fact, Cars.com is now developing a Web 2.0 widget that will tie together multiple customer and dealer entries. An employee will be able to pull up various customer leads and decide whether to merge them into a single entry.

The company is also looking for ways to use Web 2.0 for collaboration and knowledge management. Among other things, Cars.com is studying how it can tie together common business operations practices, policies and procedures in a user-friendly way with an assortment of wikis and widgets.

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.

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