Advertisers Need To Reach Car Shoppers On Sofas, Long Before They Hit The Showroom

timjenkinsData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tim Jenkins, CEO at 4INFO.

Before taking a single step onto a showroom floor, 95% of car shoppers have already decided which car they plan to test-drive. Reports show most have spent up to three months searching their digital devices for photos, reviews, videos and price comparisons of their desired car. More than half have narrowed their selection to one or two models.

So why do auto marketers still run mobile ads targeting consumers when they’re at or near a dealership to entice them to buy cars they’ve never considered?

As the second-largest industry segment for digital ad spending, the auto sector must use its ad budgets to strategically reach consumers on their smartphones, tablets and desktops long before they consider a visit to a dealership. Reaching the right audience across screens can help auto brands to influence a changing purchase cycle where consumers no longer trek from dealership to dealership or buy based on commercials urging them to “come on down” to shop the showroom.

The Best Message, At The Right Time 

Creative is both a key challenge and requirement for cross-screen success. Interactive videos and ultra-high-engagement rich media can be particularly powerful because these add units create a conversation with consumers. Audi, for example, is about selling image, lifestyle and performance. The brand entices with engaging content to reach its audience.

Audi’s recent mobile video ad campaign, built around the brand’s involvement with the Le Mans race, exceeded expectations by delivering a 36% video completion rate. The results suggest auto marketers who offer captivating creative designed for mobile consumption are more likely to gain traction in the minds of customers.

The creative challenge is to serve creative that is appropriate both in terms of where the consumer is in the auto-buying sales funnel and in terms of the screen they are viewing. For example, don’t serve data-heavy videos to users who don’t have Wi-Fi at the moment. Ideally, a diverse set of creative is needed to serve ads to appropriately fit the context of every screen.

Timing also matters in cross-screen ad campaigns. Why serve a video ad to a consumer who’s test-driving a car and unlikely to pull over to watch? Conversely, reaching prospective car buyers with a dealer locater while they’re in the early research stages most times results in wasted ad dollars.

Ultimately, challenges related to timing are similar to creative in cross-screen campaigns. Auto advertisers need to know enough about their target audience to effectively estimate the context to serve an appropriate, timely ad.

There’s a misperception that consumers rely on their smartphones because they’re always on the go. But more than 85% of people use their mobile phones or tablets at home, often while watching TV, according to Nielsen. The cross-screen challenge for auto marketers is to reach consumers when they’re actively searching, which is often when they’re at home on a comfy sofa.

Beyond Hope And Probability 

Timing and creative are just two pieces of the puzzle. There tends to be a lot of hope and probability behind targeting the right car buyer. Too often, auto marketers deliver ads to consumers without knowing exactly whom they’re targeting. Auto campaigns that rely too heavily on location targeting often waste valuable ad impressions on consumers who happen to be near a dealership but have no intention of purchasing a car.

Auto marketers are often sitting on loads of data, but it only becomes valuable when it can be matched to the right devices. The challenge is to accurately target in-market car buyers and deliver relevant messages across screens throughout the car-purchase cycle. By integrating third-party data, such as registration and dealer data or an auto brand’s CRM data, marketers can target customers based on a variety of automotive ownership, affinity and market features and serve ads to highly segmented consumers with product information and offers relative to where they are in the car-buying process.

Ultimately, the challenge is to connect digital ad exposures to actual car sales results. Dealership visits, while easily measured, come up short when assessing what triggered someone to buy.  It’s more than visits or clicks or eyeballs on screens – it’s a journey through the sales funnel that finishes with a measurable sales lift at the cash register.

Along the way, it should account for consumer ad engagement, effective linkage of offline and digital data and the use of other relevant tactics that lead to a sale in the dealer’s finance office.

Follow 4INFO (@4INFO) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Enjoying this content?

Sign up to be an AdExchanger Member today and get unlimited access to articles like this, plus proprietary data and research, conference discounts, on-demand access to event content, and more!

Join Today!