How Digital Marketing Is Fueling the Automotive Industry

October 27, 2017 Ginna Hall

Americans bought more new vehicles last year than ever before—17.6 million cars and trucks. This was the seventh consecutive year of sales growth.

Automotive marketers now wonder whether this trend can continue. Like many industries, automotive has experienced dramatic transformation in recent years. Connected technologies, digital and mobile channels, and longer vehicle lifespans have changed the way we drive and shop for cars.

OEMs and established car dealers have been joined by third-party sites such as, Car Gurus and Car Fax that position themselves as one-stop shops for researching across brands. Tracking consumer behavior is complicated by lead aggregators and wrap-around services and review sites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmonds.

Other new channels such as YouTube have emerged as a source of information for car buyers, and views of test drives, features and options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the past year. Google research revealed that 70 percent of people who used YouTube as part of their car buying process were influenced by what they watched.

Challenges of Digital Marketing for Auto

Automotive marketers are finding that the keys to success may be fueled by increasing adoption of highly effective digital marketing tactics.

These marketers face three common challenges:

  • Tying TV, online, display, and paid search media exposure to actual car sales
  • Identifying prospects as they move from their smartphone to the dealer
  • Measuring marketing effectiveness by channel

In his article, Revisiting Web Engagement Metrics For Auto Dealers, Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies, reported that the percentage of consumers who convert via a lead form, phone call, chat, or text message is very low (< 10%) compared to the total number of visits a franchise dealer sees per month in Google Analytics.

“If over 90% of the website traffic doesn’t identify themselves explicitly, how can marketing effectiveness be measured?” asked Brian.

Many dealers attribute marketing results using a flawed “last click” model, because tracking conversions across multiple marketing touches is so difficult. New technology tackles this vexing issue, enabling marketers to finally understand the true drivers for each sale so they can invest more in marketing tactics that work and less in those that don’t.

Tracking the Customer Journey

A driver can decide to buy a new car suddenly, after an accident for example, or over a period of weeks. Graduation, a new baby, and other life events can also trigger the need for a new car.

Google has identified five shopping moments every auto brand must own. A recent study by ACA Research maps out the automotive customer journey and the timing for key events from initial research to final purchase. According to the research, journey can take between five and twelve weeks.

Dealers struggle to engage customers and prospects across channels and devices, yet this information is critical to predict life cycle stage, understand customer preferences, and improve marketing effectiveness.

Bringing Stakeholders Together

Auto dealers and manufacturers invest heavily in online advertising yet few standards exist for tracking consumer influence, engagement, and conversion. The unique challenges of automotive marketers have given rise to new events.

The Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit is the first conference of its kind dedicated to online marketing analytics and attribution for the automotive industry. The Summit, on November 8th and 9th in Boca Raton, will bring together thought leaders, technology companies, and dealership managers who want to work together to solve the attribution challenges of the auto industry.

Manufacturers, marketing technology companies, marketing portals, and dealership managers will present research, case studies, and challenges in a forum that will seek to define next steps to solve a pressing problem in the industry.

Andy Dubickas, Senior Director, Global Solutions Consulting, Nielsen will join moderator Brian Pasch, Founder, PCG Companies, and executives from LiveRamp, Datalicious, Conversant, and Search Discovery for an interactive panel “Insights on Attribution from Outside the Automotive Industry.”

Attendees will discuss:

  • What are the barriers to bringing sales attribution models to retail dealers and auto groups?
  • What’s the biggest challenge that has to be solved in order to obtain more accurate sales attribution models?
  • Is the auto industry behind in its use of cross-device attribution when you compare it to other industries that spend as much as the auto sector?
  • How can SMBs create a more accurate sales attribution model and tools to optimize their marketing mix?
  • Will larger dealer groups, spending a few million dollars a year on marketing, need to hire data scientists in 2018?
  • How are other industries measuring the impact of radio, cable, and broadcast media?

Don’t Miss Our Session

Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit

Boca Raton, FL

Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.

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