Car Buyers Want 'Amazon-​Like Experience'

Andy MacLeay, director of digital marketing for Cox Automotive software unit Dealer​.com, says that, "from the consumer side, it's about old-​school trust, which used to be pretty much an oxymoron when it came to the dealership experience." Not so much anymore as automakers like Ford and GM are working to streamline the process, and dealers are embracing what MacLeay says is "a more Amazon-​like experience."

Karl Greenberg writes in the Marketing:automotive piece, MacLeay Of Cox Auto Sees Dealer Opportunities, Challenges, "Auto dealers are a lot smarter about marketing now than they were a few years back. Many have social media staffers now, not just digital sales people who fished for leads and handled CRM email. One company that navigates this space is Dealertrack Technologies."

‰ÛÏWe are seeing the benefits of that (Amazon-​like experience,)"åÊMacLeay says. "Leads coming off of digital retailing have closing rates somewhere on an average of 30%. Dealers who have used digital to shorten consumers' time waiting in dealership have seen a big increase in that rate.‰Û These dealers are shortening the unsavory process of signing paperwork, by allowing consumers to do a lot of it online. ‰ÛÏWe have seen lots of research that shows essentially the joyous experience dwindles when you leave a customer waiting around in an office.‰Û If you eliminate that, profitability goes up because it builds trust because they can walk themselves through the process. ‰ÛÏIt's like Amazon, where you buy a new TV and you see what else people have bought who purchased that TV.‰Û

"This is not, to be clear, buying a car online, which will probably not happen in the near future because the automotive experience is visceral and cars are the second-​most expensive thing consumers buy," Greenberg writes. You don't test-​drive a refrigerator. ‰ÛÏI don't see the traditional dealership model going away. 72% still want to see the vehicle in real life. And 61% still want to test drive,‰Û MacLeay says.

MacLeay says that in the past four years, the sophistication of dealer clients has skyrocketed. ‰ÛÏWhen they come to our events they have true digital marketing subject experts asking tough questions. The education level has been astounding. And there is a trend of them moving more and more dollars over to digital, which is de facto mobile. And there is a challenge inherent in screen resolution sizes. "Mobile has been a focus for several years. But what we need to know is where are shoppers using each screen resolution size in the shopping process. For us it's optimizing against that."

"As an industry, for a long time we focused on getting customers into the dealership, selling the vehicle, and that ended the process," MacLeay says. "The next step is how we continue to market and make them feel engaged, and we have so may more opportunities to create an experience throughout the vehicle ownership period."

He says the magic ‰ÛÏpixie dust‰Û is hyper local targeting across broad-​swath campaigns, to make sure campaigns are optimized at each rooftop. ‰ÛÏWe have localized campaigns across thousands of dealers, and managed that.‰Û

‰ÛÏThey [OEMs] would buy a Super Bowl ad [and extend it to national digital campaigns], and that was kind of where it ended,‰Û he says. ‰ÛÏNow they realize they have to couple that up with a buy across their franchises, because when campaigns are disconnected, you see higher bounce rates.‰Û

"The next nut to crack?" MacLeay asks. "Providing for dealers and dealer groups relevant video content at an affordable cost, with automated buying, as digital video is the fastest growing channel. MacLeay notes that Facebook is now in the space. So is BuzzFeed, having created a digital video ad division."

‰ÛÏWe have proprietary machine learning for real time bidding, our own DSP (demand-​side platform); so how we use that for optimizing campaigns for our dealers and broadening that with video, that's the challenge. And then, of course, we are already sort of dabbling in native ad formats for tier three," MacLeay says.

The struggle is limited budgets and how best to use them to optimize for best performance. ‰ÛÏIf we had unlimited budget it would be easy, but where it gets tricky, where we have expert analysts, is where we optimize channels based on performance. If you have a goal of having a percent impression share, we know paid search begins to get expensive after 80% impression share. You can augment that with retargeting, a good network display or premium display buy.‰Û

Inform any used car/​truck dealers you know about ways to make their digital advertising efforts stand out with buyers. AudienceSCAN finds that 15% of adults intend to purchase used cars or trucks in the next 12 months. And you can bet they are scouring the Internet to find the perfect one! In fact, 32% of Used Car/​Truck Shoppers viewed television commercials on YouTube in the past 6 months. 49% looked for the phone number of a business on the web in the past 30 days. And don't overlook mobile: in the past 6 months, 23% watched videos about a product they're considering on their mobile devices.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports inåÊAdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.