Mapping Out a Future

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.

Finally, Cars.com is pushing into social media and looking for ways to further integrate content and offerings through sites and services such as Facebook and Twitter. The company aims to boost its visibility, while making information more accessible and digestible to a larger audience—mostly through the use of additional widgets.

Mobility is at the core of Car.com’s  business model. The company offers iPhone and Android apps—and a traditional WAP application for Blackberry—and it has built a mobile Website optimized for mobile phone browsers.

Already, about 25 percent of the firm’s total online traffic arrives through mobile devices. “This provide a convenient way to access data and rich content with the device of choice,” Grau explains. “It gives users an opportunity to move away from the traditional Website, and use apps and content that are more streamlined and convenient.”

Mapping Out a Future

Handling an ever-growing mountain of data and presenting it in a digestible way is no simple task. As a result, Cars.com has moved away from SOAP-based Web services and embraced lighter, more easily consumable RESTful services built on IBM’s DataPower Application. It uses JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a data interchange format that can convert data into XML on the fly. It’s an approach that Cars.com finds more suitable for building widgets and Web 2.0 features. The goal is to build a flexible, scalable environment.

Managing the site and the use of technology is another key consideration. Executives meet quarterly to explore new opportunities and options—and prioritize projects. With about 100 IT professionals at the firm, it’s vital to manage the current environment, but also be able to adjust to rapidly changing business conditions.

Over the next couple of years, Grau hopes to ramp up the use of Web 2.0 and rich media to avoid static data that becomes easily dated. He also is looking to incorporate more video, images and user-generated content—including reviews.

To be sure, business success is heavily dependent on steering clear of the skid marks created by rapidly changing technology and fickle consumer preferences. Fortunately, Cars.com is in the driver’s seat when it comes to next-generation Web features.

“We want consumers and dealers to have an exceptional experience,” Grau concludes. “By providing content, features and easy to use tools, we’re making car shopping and selling a much smoother experience.”

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.

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