The auto buyer’s path to purchasing a new car is extended and complex. There are 24 average touchpoints, 19 of which are digital (Google). In order to reach an engaged car buyer and increase foot traffic, it’s essential to adopt multiple targeting tactics that cover this multistep journey.
It’s also shown that advertising campaigns that use four or more different digital channels (such as programmatic display, search, social, and SEO) outperform single-or duel-channel campaigns by 300% (Gartner Research). Simply said, this approach really moves metal.
However, the Adtech/Martech space is crowded and it seems everyone has a new product, data partner, and programmatic solution that will sell hundreds of cars, or so they promise. It’s often challenging for auto advertisers to decide how they should allocate their dollars to meet their goals.
The future of car sales is omnichannel. Previously, car buying required personal contact with auto dealers, combined with online research. Today, digital natives are mainstream car buyers who take a fragmented journey to car purchase.
People don’t just sit on Facebook all day and they also don’t spend all their time online combing through paid search ads. Car buyers are reading, consuming and watching content across the rest of the Internet.
In order to get more car shoppers on the lot in today’s buying environment, high-volume automotive dealers target potential customers from the initial search that signals interest in car buying — such as a search for “new car” or “family sedan reviews” — all the way through their online research.
And the potential to reach the buyer doesn’t stop once they’ve completed their research at home and are in route to the dealership or a competitor’s lot. At this point, the primary driver of generating increased foot traffic is done through targeted mobile advertising.
Dealerships also need to figure out how to measure their advertising; video completion rates, online-to-offline conversions, and a positive lift in foot traffic. Dealerships waste a lot of time and money by investing in advertising that simply isn’t working or that is too broad for their highly localized dealership locations.
Localized programmatic can help by opening a new horizon of opportunities to successful reach the right buyers at the right time. Based on these needs, there are 5 targeting tactics that all automotive advertisers need to adopt.
Geo-Fencing is used to target customized audiences on mobile who visit specific geographic areas. It is the most advanced location-based mobile advertising technology powered by latitude and longitude data. Advertisers create a custom-shaped geo-fence around an area where they desire to target customers (a competitor’s store, a venue, a specific part of town, etc.). Here are a few specific ways to put Geo-Fencing into practice.
- Location Proximity – Your local city, town, and region are high-opportunity areas. Create custom-sized and shaped geo-fences based on addresses, ZIP codes, and/or neighborhood — any desired location really. When getting started with Geo-Fencing, always start by geo-fencing your own dealership(s). This will ensure that the potential buyers who visit your location and leave without buying a car receive your mobile ads and are reminded to come back.
- Conquesting – Advertisers can also use Geo-Fencing to conquest their competitors. Use the power of mobile to serve ads to shoppers who have recently visited your competitor’s location and time your ads for the biggest impact. Recency is a highly valuable data point that allows advertisers to serve a targeted ad to an engaged buyer based on when they visited a specific geo-fenced location — whether it be your competitor’s lot, your own dealership, or some other predetermined location. Using recency, advertisers can target a potential buyer who just searched for a particular car, or someone who visited the dealership 10 days ago and has not returned.
- Measure Dealership Visits – Even the most thoughtful advertising and effective targeting isn’t much good if you can’t measure its impact. Auto dealers must be able to track offline, or “last mile,” conversions in order to truly measure the success of their advertising. Geo-Fencing with Conversion Zones allows advertisers to accurately gauge and optimize mobile-campaign effectiveness by tracking online-to-offline conversions.
Keyword Search Retargeting
Reach users on mobile or desktop who have recently searched for keywords and phrases relevant to your inventory. For example, a potential customer is online and searches for “new car,” “family sedan,” or even “safest minivan.” Because these keyword searches indicate an interest in auto, they will see your ads as they surf the web.
97% of first time visitors to your site don’t take action. Using Site Retargeting, you can reach people who recently visited your site but left. As he/she surfs the web, he is served your ad a few days or even minutes later, reminding him of your dealership and your inventory. Use special offers to bring him back to your site or to your showroom.
Contextual targeting is a powerful way for auto advertisers to connect with buyers by serving them ads as they browse content and websites related to their car-buying interests. Contextual targeting looks at the category or keyword of the page a person is viewing and serves them ads relevant to the page’s content. Advertisers can create a custom list of keywords related to their business or product and contextual targeting will serve relevant ads to the user as they read content and gather information to inform their car purchase.
Bring your offline customer data online with CRM Targeting. Auto dealers have a wealth of data on their customers: date of last car purchase, interests, lease expirations, etc. Your customer database, or CRM, is an incredibly valuable resource and you likely use this list for direct mail and other local communication purposes. Expand the reach of your CRM and create additional digital customer touch points by serving ads to your customers as they surf the web. For current customers, the ads could be customized and focus on loyalty efforts or timed to correspond to their next car purchase or lease expiration.
Last Thought: Don’t Forget Creative
Prospecting Dynamic Creative is a powerful way for auto advertisers to engage their audience during upper-funnel purchase behaviors. This type of creative helps advertisers go beyond standard programmatic and serve ads to potential buyers before they even visit your website. Prospecting Dynamic Creative not only matches the audience to the creative, but also adjusts the content of the advertisement to the individual based on upper-funnel behaviors, such as keywords searched and contextual elements. It takes into consideration the nuances of a buyer’s search intent such as color, car classifications, new vs. used, certified vehicles, etc. No site visit is required to dynamically serve the ads.
Auto advertisers and car dealerships know that getting someone physically on the lot is the best lead. Much like the billboards and newspapers that established the dealership years ago as part of the community and the go-to place to buy cars, localized programmatic can do the same in today’s buying environment.
Author: Casey Squier
Casey Squier is the Senior Director of Sales for Simpli.fi, specializing in auto insights and helping car dealerships maximize their ad spend online. He has over 18 years of experience in the digital marketing space across paid search, search engine optimization, social and programmatic advertising. Casey graduated from The University of Arizona and has been featured in numerous publications including Digiday and AdAge. EMAIL: email@example.com