Translating data into a better car-buying experience

Viva Las Vegas! We always enjoy connecting with industry leaders, OEM clients, dealers and agencies at the JD Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable. This year’s event at the Bellagio was especially exciting, so we wanted to share a few of the key insights we took away from the great keynotes, panels and cabana networking Signal participated in:

Traditional auto industry marketing models are out-of-step with the way today’s consumers interact with brands.

Car buyers are wondering why, despite all the digital advancements, the shopping experience is harder than it needs to be. Consumers are ready to buy cars online. The question is: how long will it take automakers to adapt?

Automakers like GM are shifting to a customer-centric model to put the consumer at the heart of things. And that means breaking down the old three-tier marketing system because consumers don’t care about it. “Tier-thinking in general is antiquated,” declared Jon Beebe, director of digital advertising and analytics at GM.

Data-readiness has become a significant competitive advantage.

Connecting an expanding universe of data points in real-time is the key to creating deeper, lasting customer relationships in today’s digitally-driven world.

GM’s Beebe told attendees that connecting data points across the company’s multiple brands and agencies and around the world is one of his top priorities. “You need to be able to identify the customer and leverage that [information] across the enterprise,” Beebe said. Working with Signal, and its agency partner Carat, GM has streamlined global data collection processes, improved measurement and made data more actionable, he added.

“Data is the new natural resource. This is revolutionizing the industry,” said Land Rover’s Kim Kyaw.

Price transparency is increasingly a deal-breaker.

Buyers’ increased use of the web for pre-purchase research doesn’t mean that they’re spending less time shopping at dealerships. Consumers are “showrooming” in auto dealerships, with more than one-third of them using either a smartphone or tablet while in the showroom. Pricing is the most frequently accessed content, with 84% using the pricing information in the negotiation process.

Dealers need to embrace this as a permanent trend. Unless they respond with complete transparency of price, value and product offering, they stand to lose trust with these digital-savvy buyers, who will go elsewhere.

Will Connected Cars Become the Fifth Screen?

First came movies on the silver screen, then television, then Internet-connected PCs, and more recently, handheld mobile devices. While these four screen types are ubiquitous to consumers, digital experts are already prognosticating about the “fifth screen” to come. Is the next evolution small screens on retail shelves or in elevators or cabs? Or giant screens as highway billboards or digital signage on public transit platforms?

Or will the fifth screen be found in digitally-connected cars? In-vehicle screens may soon do more than provide driving directions. (Think Tesla’s Internet-connected touchscreen display.) Some industry insiders are predicting automotive screens soon will be offering many more choices including news, entertainment and advertising. An automotive fifth screen could even accelerate adoption of self-driving cars, streaming information and entertainment to drivers whose vehicles maneuver themselves through rush-hour traffic.

Clearly, the future is coming fast in auto industry marketing!

Originally published October 21, 2014

Joe Stanhope was formerly Senior Vice President of Marketing at Signal.

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