The Internet, with all of its tools for researching, price-checking, side-by-side comparison shopping and feature configuration, has completely changed the way consumers navigate the path to purchase for new and used vehicles or, for that matter, parts and services. Statistics show that it takes approximately five months for a consumer to move from considering the purchase of a vehicle to actually receiving the keys. Moreover, only 20% of car buyers purchase the car they initially research online. This creates a huge opportunity to introduce the majority of consumers to a new brand and steer their decision in another direction. With millennials already comprising nearly half of all auto shoppers, the Internet's influence on auto shopping will strengthen as this Internet-dependent, multidevice generation matures.
For some auto marketers, the fragmented purchase path is creating opportunities. As Alain Visser, senior VP-marketing, sales and customer service at Volvo Cars recently said, "The biggest revolution in the car industry is happening at home. Around 80% to 90% of customers shop online first, so we have created a website that offers the same brand experience as the dealership." He added, "We are totally reshaping what we are doing and reinventing the way we go to market."
Given the data, it's no wonder that automakers are some of the biggest spenders in digital advertising. Between domestic and international car manufacturers, as well as regional and local dealerships, the automotive segment will spend over $7 billion on digital advertising in 2015. More than a third of that will be dedicated to mobile channels. However, like any marketing spend, it's important to get as much mileage as possible out of the investment. In today's multiscreen reality, automakers from Ford in the U.S. and Audi in Germany to Honda in Japan and Kia in Korea need to be keeping one marketing technology top of mind: cross-device.
With the current multidevice consumption patterns among consumers, unlocking cross-device identity is the key to seamless consumer dialogue for automakers. According to the IAB, automotive shoppers are about 40% more likely to own smartphones, as well as 27% more likely to own tablets. This, combined with the fact that the same audience is 71% more likely to be influenced by digital advertising than the average consumer, makes it necessary to leverage accurate and scalable cross-device technology in campaigns in order to capture and maintain mind share. Without the cross-device connection to enable person-based marketing, a brand's digital marketing goes back to the inefficiencies of silo-based or spray-and-pray tactics. Unlocking cross-device lets marketers tap into advanced abilities for reaching consumers seamlessly across devices and accurately measuring campaign success.
The auto funnel has traditionally been broken into two segments based on the specific goals of the advertiser: Tier 1 and Tier 2 campaigns. Both of these types of campaigns can benefit from cross-device technology.
Tier 1 brand awareness campaigns are built to show off a brand ("BMW—The Ultimate Driving Machine"). This could also be used for launching a new model ("See the all-new 2016 Chevy Volt") or to highlight a specific vehicle with exciting brand messaging and calls to action ("Check out the Toyota Camry"). Rich media, video and dynamic creative assets are typically leveraged for these campaigns. Tier 2 performance campaigns seek to meet more measurable, action-based objectives, such as clicking on a call to action, locating a dealer ("Find a Mazda dealership near you"), configuring a car ("Build your dream Mercedes today") or even visiting a physical dealership ("Schedule your test-drive of the Chrysler 200").
Machine-learning algorithms can optimize for Tier 1 exposure and the classic conversion events of Tier 2 by homing in on the specific creative assets, devices, times and even locations where ads experience the most success. When used correctly, this can drive brand awareness while lowering cost per engagement.
Cross-device technology enables true measurement of optimal conversion paths, reach and frequency, and attribution across devices and to offline events, boosting foot traffic in addition to device engagement. Additionally, a cross-device solution enables marketers to leverage tools such as storytelling, sequential messaging and true global frequency capping across devices to deliver seamless messaging for awareness campaigns, no matter what device the consumer is using. One recent automotive campaign leveraged these tactics to double conversion uplift across devices and reduce cost-per-user acquisition to nearly one-third of goal.
However, marketers should beware of the many new companies with bolted-on cross-device solutions.. Only an accurate, large-scale, cross-device solution can enable auto brands to effectively reach consumers and drive brand engagement without leaving consumers feeling like they're being saturated with ads. Many of the solutions in the market today lack the ability to reach a wide audience, are unvalidated by third-parties, don't truly work across devices in an integrated fashion or, worst of all, are marketing to devices, not to people.
Regardless of the specific campaign goals, auto marketers seeking to achieve maximum ROI should work with a partner that offers both programmatic expertise in the vertical as well as an accurate and scalable cross-device identity solution. Ultimately, it's technology that drives campaign efficiencies for auto marketers and, just as consumers want the latest technological features in their new cars, marketers should include advanced technology as a must-have requirement for their marketing partners.
About the Author
Brian Ferrario is VP-marketing at Drawbridge. Prior to joining Drawbridge, Brian was VP-marketing at Sociomantic, a leading programmatic advertising technology company, where he was part of the executive team that helped the company be acquired by dunnhumby, a Tesco company, the world's second largest retailer. He previously joined digital advertising technology company Rocket Fuel in 2008 as employee No. 13 and was instrumental in helping the company achieve record category growth; numerous innovation, cultural and revenue awards; and huge traction in the market that helped lead to a successful initial public offering.
About the Sponsor
Drawbridge is the industry's leading cross-device technology company that enables brands to have seamless conversations with consumers across their connected devices, including desktops, smartphones, tablets and connected TVs. By leveraging its Connected Consumer Graph, which includes more than 1 billion consumers across more than 3 billion devices to date, the company is able to gain insights and a much deeper understanding of consumer behavior to drive better results for advertisers—from creating brand awareness to driving incremental sales. For more information, visit Drawbridge.