We all know that there is enormous value in personalizing our message to potential customers, but most of our efforts end up feeling clumsy and awkward. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when a search for a family vacation destination or a birthday present for your son leads to a tsunami of ads stalking you everywhere you go online. It is, however, worth trying to get right. According to research from McKinsey, personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and can lift sales by 10% or more.
Many have promised automotive dealers this kind of personalization capability, but waiting for the perfect machine or AI to generate these interactions is wasting time. In our experience we’ve found the best way to achieve meaningful personalization, especially within a dealership’s digital marketing efforts, is by rolling up one’s sleeves to systematically test ideas with customers and prospects, then rapidly iterating. It is only recently, however, that tools and capabilities to execute this “test and learn” approach—delivering genuinely relevant personalized offers and content to customers and prospects, across channels—have not existed.
Today, however, marketing tech, automation, and advanced analytics are maturing through an uncomfortable adolescence and are available at prices that give most car dealers access to this powerful approach. Taking full advantage, though, does require a reimagining of the dealership’s marketing efforts. It’s imperative that we stop thinking about our marketing efforts in siloed channels (newspaper, radio, TV, search, digital display, social media, etc.) and instead focus on creating the perfect, personalized journey for every potential car buyer or service customer
For dealers wanting to realize the upside of this robust approach finally there are few key suggestions and next steps.
Commit to Data-Driven Decisions
There are, without doubt, times when one must make a decision based on intuition or experience. The ability to do that well is a critical factor in most of our success. However, an analysis of data, our own and that of third-parties, can uncover significant insights about customers needs and intents.
When dealers integrate their data, including customer-supplied information and purchase history, website visits, and marketing response and engagement data, with third-party data on customer interests and shopping behavior, it is easier to personalize messages to customers and increase the effectiveness of marketing and sales.
What dealers need today are systems that can review data about customers and marketing analytics to discover useful and practical insights for the next marketing campaign and sales promotion. This process can help your team trigger the sending of the right message at the right time to the right potential customer in the right place, e.g., if potential customer “A” does action “B,” send item “C.”
The Need for Speed
While the ultimate goal may be an almost entirely automated process for making marketing and advertising decisions, we can take steps today using insights from data to reliably speed up decisions and find competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. We can with increasing degrees of confidence, especially within the world of our digital marketing, identify what combination, or combinations, of message, creative and placement are driving service appointments or showroom visits. At the highest level, we have the insights to let our teams follow the data and do more of what works and avoid that which doesn’t.
Depending on the size and scale of your operation, if you’re selling vehicles in a large metropolitan area or have operations in multiple locations, you may want to invest in tools that help automate some of this decision-making. Many of these solutions allow for dynamic, two-way communication—collecting and tracking customer reactions to your efforts and turning that information into practical insights to guide prospective messaging and offers.
It may be time for your dealership to explore programmatic digital advertising. This technology enables the high speed, automated trading of media inventory, placement of advertising creative, and sharing of performance data. When combined with efforts to personalize messages, these placements, made across a dealers entire marketing mix across multiple websites, mobile apps, devices, and creative formats, can drive significantly higher return on advertising investments.
Content Distribution and Creative Development
Content is the fuel of personalization — and someone must produce and organize it. A good system will use customer and prospect insights to trigger personalized ads and landing pages and to distribute content, offers, or experiences to specific people across channels. You don’t want your creative to guide people to stale, irrelevant, or low-quality content. Just as important, or maybe more so, you want to make sure your inventory is kept up to date, and your marketing efforts avoid offering phantom vehicles.
This need puts a significant onus on developing a robust content “supply chain” fed by a creative person or team. Obviously, content attributes and creative options should be tested regularly—to improve message, design, calls to action, and offers to drive higher response.
Putting the Right Team in Place
Of course, it’s not enough to gather insights. The dealership has to be able to act smartly on those insights. Addressing that challenge may require changes in how your dealership does things. While automation may seem to imply that one can sit back and let the machine run itself, there is no autopilot.
It takes experienced marketers to set up, deploy, and manage always-on, personalized campaigns. Dealerships can run these systems internally with a dedicated team or enlist a qualified agency to support them—provided they still appoint an experienced individual to liaise with those agencies.
The benefits of personalization are now clearly within the grasp of today’s forward-thinking car dealers. It takes a degree of discipline and organizational commitment, but it may be the best option for us to accelerate growth in the digital world.
Author: Mario Schiappacasse
Mario Schiappacasse is the head of digital display for Jellyfish. He is responsible for strategy and results for our US clients, including some of the largest automotive brands. He has over a decade experience in the digital marketing arena and a long track record of building innovative solutions for clients. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland.