Focus on “share of voice” to turn demand into consistent conversions, sales.
Did you meet your sales goal for 2013? In-market demand was strong last year, with 2014 off to a rocket start. New research by Compete’s Lincoln Merrihew (Automotive 2013: Mixed Market Messages) is blunt: “Not all brands enjoyed success, and some enjoyed success on only one of the two primary levers needed to drive sales: demand and conversion.”
Act now. Compete forecasts a breakout year for 2014 in a deeper study released in January: “2014 sales levels can be reverse-engineered using combinations of demand and conversion. Modest increases of 5% in monthly averages for both would yield an average 1.43 million sales per month, which totals 17.14 million per year”.
Demand Winners & Losers
Shopper demand is measured by the number of in-market buyers for each brand. Merrihew’s data was drawn from his “sweet spot” in the digital purchase funnel, below site traffic (too vague) and above leads (not representative of true market dynamics).
Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota had more in-market shoppers each month in 2013 than did all other brands, with Ford leading the way at 592,000 shoppers. Buick, Lexus, GMC, Audi and Acura rounded out the top 20 brands with 100,000 or less shoppers per month.
Keep in mind that these are unique shoppers, meaning that a consumer that shops two models of the same brand was counted only once. Demand, of course, holds only the potential for sales. For example, Tesla had more shoppers than did Volvo and Jaguar on average in 2013, but Tesla’s sales were far lower due to limited inventory, available models and fewer dealers.
Who grew the most in terms of demands last year? Jaguar saw a healthy 27% increase in the share of shoppers added year over year. Jeep grew 24%, while Toyota (a demand leader) saw a 4% boost.
With strong demand comes more sales, right? Not so fast. As Merrihew notes, shopper demand merely creates the potential for unit sales. Your marketing and sales team must work together to reach qualified in-market buyers through a mix of activities to convert research and foot traffic into closed sales.
Taking total vehicle sales into account, GMC converted 38% of their 98,633 in-market shoppers in 2013. Dodge came in second at 35%, Ford third at 34%, and Toyota fourth at 33%. The bottom four performers were Tesla (2%), Jaguar (5%), Porsche (9%) and Lincoln (11%).
What’s Your Share of Voice?
Our deep dive into Merrihew’s levers reveals last year’s winners and losers. It also brings up a question every dealer must answer to break sales records this year. Call your digital marketing vendor or meet with your Internet manager today and ask them this question: “Is my local Internet share of voice loud enough in this market to turn demand into conversions?” Did you stump them? Look at all the data they supply, along with your Google Analytics, under the impression share category. This is how Google defines share of voice.
Given the robust in-market demand for your inventory, your online marketing must give you the power to reach at least 70% of active daily researchers in your local market. If you’re below this threshold, your weak share of voice is costing you clicks, conversions and sales. Your competition is eating your lunch.
Share of voice is the number of online ad impressions you’ve received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive. Eligibility is based on your current ads’ targeting settings, approval statuses, bids, and Quality Scores.
You and your competitors are each trying to grab the biggest slice of your local market’s daily research for your makes and models. By tracking your impression share metrics, you’re keeping tabs on the size of your slice compared to the whole.
After you know what your overall share of voice number is, ask: “What was my search and display lost impression share?” This is the percentage of time that your ads weren’t shown on Google (or the Google Display Network) due to insufficient budget. If your percentage is high, you need to put more fuel in the tank (monthly online advertising investment) to have a stronger voice in your market.
Merrihew’s advice: “Consider share of voice relative to your market. Evaluate whether planned ad spend by model is enough to reach demand levels needed to reach sales goals. Recognize that without the right combinations of demand and conversion, 2014 sales goals will be impossible to reach.”
Winning in 2014
Dealers who meet and exceed their sales goals will work with a marketing vendor who protects their turf online, delivering a 70% or greater share of voice for their local advertising. Consistently. My client success managers collaborate with dealers, one-on-one, to provide the digital tactics they need to be assertive local online to be heard by a rising tide of in-market shoppers to efficiently and effectively convert research into rooftop traffic and sales.
There’s no time to lose. Right-size your budget to meet in-market demand, work with a vendor who has a strong share of voice at the center of your campaign as a key performance metric, and get your share of the 17M sales starting this month.