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October 19, 2016

According to the Google's Digital Drives Auto Shopping report, 95 percent of people start researching for a new car online, so it's no wonder a lot of sleep is lost in the auto digital space trying to figure out how to get that extra digital lead: how to get more clicks on "request a quote," "locate a dealer," or "request a brochure," or even how to obtain users' zip codes to show them inventory locally. But all of that is dwarfed on the dealer side, and their sleep is lost on the dwindling amount of actual people appearing on their lots.

Don't believe me? McKinsey, the global consulting firm, released a study last year that found that customers physically visit an average of 1.6 dealerships before buying, and this number is down from five a decade ago. The real-world implication here is that people have stopped visiting dealerships to shop for cars. They now do it online, meaning store traffic is ultimately comprised of people who've narrowed down their choices for price.

I'm not arguing against digital marketing, per se. Car shoppers have a lot of choices to begin with, and a lot of research to do. Online tools help with this daunting process. Google research outlined that car shoppers start with exploring among 29 brands, ultimately consider six, and then decide between two in their final selection. That selection is ultimately made at one dealership (well, 1.6, apparently, according to McKinsey). But how do you get more people to your store? How can you be the one, and not the 0.6 for hundreds of people. 

Bridging The Gap Between Online and Offline
The conversion of online shoppers into real-life foot traffic is essential for dealers to succeed in the increasingly digital retail environment.

Digital agencies and clients are held to metrics that are tied exactly to how many shopper actions they drive, which are proxies of actual visits. Dealers have been transitioning budget (at varying levels) to online and mobile already (search, mostly, and beyond that, in any order, social, programmatic, and geo-targeted display). Ultimately, automotive OEMs have followed suit and transitioned to metrics and KPIs that focus on this new online lead generation, above all else, across strategies and platforms.

But what about that real-world effect of driving dealer foot traffic; of putting someone in your store and measuring it? Locally targeted TV has historically been the answer to getting people in your store en masse. In fact, spot TV accounts for one-third of the overall $2.2 billion TV spend. However, measurement beyond a gut feeling of ROI is...missing. Digital measurement has no equal, but there is an ongoing disconnect between online actions and measuring the people who end up going to your store.

Location Marketing Is Key For OEMs 
That's why location marketing is becoming more important within the marketing mix for OEMs and dealers alike, and why the ability to quantify the people who are literally driving to your stores is a notion that is starting to supplant online KPIs as the most important metric to track in addition to sales.

Dealerships who have traditionally relied on TV and OOH to drive foot traffic to their stores, can now take a play from the QSR industry leader, McDonald’s, whose work with Waze led to this insight from their recent work with Waze. “We've got some early data showing that GPS-based mobile communication [works] near the restaurant at the moment with Waze…” She added, “We tend to use television and then quite a bit of out-of-home near the restaurant,.....I think it hasn't got there yet, but we see some really exciting data and ROI from mobile, especially location-based mobile, replacing out of home near the restaurant” says Chief Marketing Officer Silvia Lagnado.

The Benefit for Dealerships
The impact of advertising locally to digital car shoppers, according to Nielsen, means "big money for dealerships, as they're 73 percent more likely than the average American to purchase a new vehicle in the next 12 months. On average, digital shopper households plan to spend $26,780 for a new vehicle. Together, that means this group plans to spend more than $102 billion on new vehicles in the next year. And nearly a third of these shoppers have an annual income in of $100,000 or more."

Being able to measure site side metrics is very important—but being able to get consumers' attention when they are near your store should also be a goal with new abilities of measuring foot traffic in a digital world.
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