5 Reasons to Attend PCG’s Automotive Engagement Conference

1. The Mission…

QUALITY > QUANTITY

Unlike any other conference in digital history, the Automotive Engagement Conference began as a collective mission to expose all digital entities guilty of not delivering QUALITY, measurable solutions to dealers. It all began as a dream, or more so, it began when industry leaders started waking up to a big problem. Study after study found evidence of dealerships paying for website traffic that consisted of BOTS – not humans – not actual people that were capable of purchasing a car, let alone converting into a showroom visit. The unfortunate reality is all too often digital advertising sources are charging dealers big bucks for clicks and impressions that did not engage with their website or the content and lead forms within it.

Orbee, an automotive software company that specializes in identifying bad website traffic, determined up to 60% of dealerships’ paid traffic, and up to 80% of their overall website traffic is coming from non-humans (or bots). Furthermore, Orbee’s late 2016 Automotive Website Traffic Quality Report stated, “Bot traffic is a $7 billion problem for the advertising industry and with dealership digital marketing budgets averaging $30-50K per month, the automotive industry must address this issue to prevent massive waste in digital adverting spend.”

Last year, Brian Pasch, host of the AEC Tour, began the PCG Engagement Project in efforts to measure the quality of traffic coming to dealer websites. “Once dealership managers understand the impact of not measuring engagement – their advertising blind spot — they will act to get their website(s) configured to start tracking engagement,” said Pasch.

Pasch’s mission to expose these “sharks” along with the rate of waste occurring under the radar was something AutoHook ethically HAD to get involved with. The AEC Tour isn’t your ordinary pay-to-play conference where vendors spend thousands of dollars just to get their product in front of dealers around the country. This is a movement. This is a collective mission to hold ALL automotive agencies and vendors accountable for providing their dealer clients with accurate reporting that shows their solutions deliver actual human traffic, capable of converting into a sale.

2. The Experts…

PCG has hand-picked the companies and presenters listed below because of the simple fact that their solutions are all proven to increase consumer engagement, and most importantly, increase sales from all lead opportunities. 

LEARN FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTOMOTIVE MAR-TECH EXPERTS

 

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3. The Content…

Dealers will learn proven methods to:

  • Accurately measure their website’s engagement metrics to further increase conversion rates and ELIMINATE areas of waste in their marketing spend.

  • Leverage marketing automation tools to create relevant advertising optimized by consumer engagement.
  • Improve their online communications strategies to increase conversions: leads, calls, chats, and text messages.
  • Lead their dealership in a digital age and protect your store from Digital Sharks!

AutoHook President, David Metter, will be presenting:

“99 Problems but the Data Ain’t 1” – Check out the teaser video below.

4. The Value…

+ $300 WORTH IN MATERIALS

+ AWESOME SWAG BAGS AND FREE PRIZES!

5. AutoHook Will Cover Half Your Ticket…

Tickets for the event cost only $50. Have you ever attended a conference for just $50? When you visit AutoHook at a city near you, we’ll reimburse you for half your ticket cost with a $25 Visa Card.

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Tactical Advice for Growth in a Flat or Down Market

FREE WEBINAR RECORDING

Only the lucky ones get to attend webinars like these. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to engage with the four marketing powerhouses with the secret sauce for digital success. AutoHook President, David Metter will be joined by David Kain (President, Kain Automotive), Todd Smith (Founder, ActivEngage) and Ken Kolodziej (Founder, String Automotive) to bring you tactical advice for growth in a flat or down market during this free, one-hour webinar + Q&A.

Learn from the industry’s masters of automotive data, sales process, conversion, and engagement measurement. Straight talk. Serious strategies. Next level digital targeting.

BOTS EXPOSED: Defining & Uncovering Your Wasted Ad Spend

| by David Metter

Over the last several months, it’s been refreshing to see more and more automotive leaders shifting their focus from quantity to quality when it comes to their website traffic and overall marketing. Rather than holding value in the number of site visits, the value has shifted to the percent of visitors that either complete a lead form or show up at a dealership. In other words, traffic that is capable of converting into sales or service revenue is the most valuable, and it’s the only type dealers should be paying for. There is an undeniable growing need for technology that flags sources that drive bad traffic so that those sources can be eliminated.

When I say bad traffic, I’m referring to BOTS. Bots (defined below) are also referred to as Internet crawlers or spiders. There are both good and bad types of Internet bots, but none of them are human, and none of them are capable of purchasing or test-driving a vehicle. Bots have been around for years, yet so many marketers still suffer from “bot traffic denial” thinking it couldn’t possibly happen to them. The reality is, no website is safe from these digital creepers. If you’re paying for digital marketing, you are absolutely paying for bot traffic – unless you fight back.

Source: Techopedia

Source: Techopedia

What’s The Big Problem?

The problem is SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS of wasted money. Orbee’s Q3 2016 Bot Traffic Report stated, “Bot traffic is a $7 billion problem for the advertising industry and with dealership digital marketing budgets averaging $30-50K per month, the automotive industry must address this issue to prevent massive waste in digital advertising spend.”

The setbacks these invasive pests present is incredibly simple. Dealers put a lot of trust (and a lot of money) into driving website visits when over half of their paid traffic could be derived from false or suspicious clicks. ClickZ warns advertisers, “Some non-human traffic is fraudulent and some merely causes a technical problem. Both kinds can cost advertisers a lot of money, whether intentionally or not.” Regardless of the type of bot, dealers and their advertising partners do not want bots clicking on their ads, generating bad traffic and sucking the life out of their finite monthly budget.

How Do I Avoid Bots?

When reviewing your vendor services, or if you’re considering a new advertising vendor, make sure to ask the questions that can save you thousands of dollars. Orbee recommends starting with the following questions:

1. What measures do you have in place to detect bot traffic?

2. What % of total traffic do you mark as bot traffic?

3. What is your refund policy regarding bot traffic?

Conquest Automotive has defined 5 red flags dealers and their vendors should look out for to identify bot traffic:

1. Percentage of Out of Market Visitors – If the majority of visits to the dealership’s website were outside of the dealership’s primary market area (PMA), it is characterized as abnormal traffic.

2. Percentage of Desktop to Mobile Devices – If the percentage of visits to the dealership’s website from desktop devices is higher than 90%, it is characterized as abnormal traffic.

3. Percentage of Windows Operating Systems – If the percentage of visits to the dealership’s website exceeded 90% Windows operating system devices, it is characterized as abnormal traffic.

4. Percentage of Footer Link Clicks – If the visits to the dealership’s website triggered an abnormal number of visits to the dealership’s privacy or sitemap pages, it is characterized as abnormal traffic.

5. Hours of Day Clicks – Most Clicks should come during normal hours, not in the middle of the night. 

Remember that when all else fails, you can always trust the data. Data never lies. If you receive a report showing a high number of website visits but no engagements or conversions, you most likely have a case of the bots. If you are one of the thousands of dealers that use AutoHook, contact us and we will set up a feature that will trigger an alert to catch this type of activity…or lack there of it. There are also new technologies specifically made for attacking and exposing bots, while also alerting dealers of potential problems. PCG is one company taking big steps to expose the issue through the PCG Engagement Project and through tools like Vistadash that measure actual human engagement metrics across all your ad sources.

Better yet, come out to one of the upcoming Automotive Engagement Conferences (AEC), starting in Atlanta on March 23rd. AEC is seven-city national tour showing dealers how to measure consumer engagement to eliminate advertising BOTS, BLUNDERS, and BLOAT in their marketing investments. Learn more or register at http://pcgcompanies.com/aec/.

ARE YOU IN THE DARK? The Dark Truth About Bot Traffic

by David Metter

Sometime in the 1890’s, marketing pioneer John Wanamaker coined the famous phrase, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Personally, I have always hated this phrase. My old boss and mentor would say it to me all of the time. However, advertisers have lived within the confines of this mindset ever since. Even today, dealerships just “accept” that some of their advertising will work and some won’t. As a former CMO and a current “Urban Scientist,” I find this entire concept to be demeaning to marketers. This is 2017. We have the science, technology, and tools to make decisions based on prescriptive, data-based confidence rather than “going with your gut” or experimenting with different solutions. You should never be in the dark when it comes to 50% of your budget.

The same concept applies to your website traffic and the conversion of that traffic. Transparent vendors don’t just tell you how many clicks and visits you received, but whether or not those visits converted or engaged with your website. They should also be the ones alerting you of any suspicious activity. If an ad source is generating a significant amount of traffic, but none of that traffic is filling out a form or interacting with your site’s content, you’re most likely paying for bot (non-human) traffic. This is a huge problem for an industry that spends billions of dollars on paid search.

As of January 2017, Incapsula studied 100,000 domains and found 51.8% of website traffic came from bots. Orbee is an automotive software company that analyzes the quality of dealer website traffic and specializes in identifying bots. Orbee determined up to 60% of dealerships’ paid traffic, and up to 80% of their overall website traffic is coming from non-humans. That’s extremely alarming, and it’s concerning for several reasons. First, robots don’t buy cars. Second, dealers are paying for traffic that is incapable of converting. Traffic that converts is the only type worth paying for.  

Source: Incapsula

Source: Incapsula

In a recent episode of CBT News’ Auto Marketing Now, Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies stated, “Most dealers have Google Analytics installed, most dealers are getting reports about website traffic, but to be truthful many of those reports are coming from the companies who are selling them advertising.” What this means for dealers and OEMs, is they have to face the fact that their vendors and ad agencies may only be sharing one piece of the story.

Website visits are important, as your traffic patterns can be a great indicator of how to stock your inventory or prepare for future market conditions. However, when your Google Analytics are not showing engagement click actions, there is a need to dig deeper. The average dealer doesn’t get reports from their advertising vendors on cost per engagement. Dealer principals and managers don’t have the time to dig deep into their analytics and look for instances of fraudulent activity. As a result, advertisers can take advantage and get away with charging dealers for traffic coming from bot clicks with zero intent to buy.

In their August 2016 Research Report, PCG identified several automotive marketing companies that were generating “highly irregular” traffic and strongly felt dealers were being misled about their ROI. Brian Pasch wrote, “Automotive leaders are now investing in intelligent website analytics and bot detection software. Orbee is leading that charge by providing bot detection for all online marketing investments.”

VistaDash is also a great tool that combines all sales and marketing data from multiple vendors and sources into one dashboard to immediately identify instances of wasted spend. VistaDash is the only independent data dashboard that scores and measures your website traffic engagement.

With all the new technologies and third party vendors entering the market, dealers need partners that will alert them of any instances of bot or fraudulent traffic. Across all verticals, automotive is the second-largest spender in digital advertising, so you have to know your tools. Know who your tools are coming from. Know how they work, why they work, and the data that sits within them. Choose to know where your money is going. Choose vendors that take strong security measures and will go out of their way to inform you of any suspicious activity.    

 

Note: The AutoHook platform has strong security measures in place in order to catch suspicious activity pertaining to our virtual incentives. If we recognize any behavior that is out of the ordinary, we will reach out to our OEM, agency, or dealer directly in order to further investigate and resolve any issues.  

How to Avoid the Noid: Google’s New Popup Penalty

In efforts further enhance the online experiences of today’s mobile shoppers, Google activated their latest rule to mobile-specific website ranking. The Intrusive Interstitials Penalty, also known as the “Popup Penalty” was initiated on January 10th, 2017. Interstitials are simply a fancy word for “popups,” or any ad format that interrupts the user’s experience or access to content – an annoyance that has become all too familiar to smartphone and tablet users.

Reputable website providers and marketing companies will always remain compliant with Google’s search algorithms and ranking requirements. AutoHook works with both dealers and OEMs to drive incremental sales and showroom traffic through test drive incentive offers that are nonintrusive and that do not interrupt the user’s interaction with a page’s content. We’d like all of our clients to rest assured our solutions are NOT in violation of any aspect of Google’s mobile Popup Penalty for the following reasons:

1.     AutoHook incentives cover only a small portion of the screen and are designed to integrate seamlessly into mobile websites

2.     Customers do not have to take action to close or dismiss the offer

3.     Our test drive incentives do not interrupt, block, or clutter the visual or content-related experience of mobile car shoppers

4.     AutoHook’s technology is always run through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure optimal conversion rates throughout the mobile environment

Mobile best practices are at the utmost forefront of our platform's development and design, stated Joe Conrad, Program Manager for AutoHook. “We remain diligent in maintaining a proactive approach to our mobile strategy in order to stay in front of anticipated changes in the space.”

Google initiated this algorithmic change in order to penalize any website or technology provider that does not adhere to the new rule. According to Google, “Pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” Ranking lower down the page in search results, especially on mobile, can drastically affect both your website traffic and your overall business.

So how do you know if your site is in violation? Below is the list Google provided of all interstitials that could be potentially problematic to the user:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Google also gave us visual examples of ads or offers that violate the Popup Penalty:

There are three types of interstitials that do not violate this rule, and thus would not be ranked lower in search results. Google listed the following types of popup banners or overlays that they do allow, and that will not be negatively affected:

  1. Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  2. Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  3. Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Google’s mentality when it comes to ad and website ranking is incredibly simple. Relevancy gets rewarded, and any disconnects in messaging from one page to the next will not be tolerated (at least not for long). We are proud to say that AutoHook is, and always will be compliant with Google’s website ranking standards.

If you have any concerns regarding your mobile site ranking, you can test it here with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

 

 

Mining Your Data for Equity

by David Metter

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Our industry has a skewed perception of big data and its intended uses. I think that the term “big data,” has been overused and I believe it’s time to replace it with “best data.” Big data will only continue to get bigger, and I don’t think “colossal data” will ever really catch on or be worthy of a hashtag. So let’s open our eyes to what’s been missing from the information age and allow a little common sense to flow through our vantage point, straight into our dealership operations.

So what is the best data? If you asked 50 different people, you’d get 50 different answers. But these are just opinions, and opinions are noise. The best data is science-based, inarguable, and absolute. The best data is something you already have, and it’s located right within your own DMS. The data that matters most, before observing any other KPIs, is sales and service data – that’s it. If you think any other type of information is more important than if people buy cars from you and if they get their vehicles serviced from you…I’d advise you consider a different line of work.

If I were to purchase a dealership this very moment, the first thing I’d put into play is equity mining. I don’t own an equity mining company, and I’m not trying to sell you an equity-mining product. But I do know good common sense solution and execution when I see it. Equity mining takes the sales and service data you already have, and identifies opportunities to drive people actually in-market to purchase into your showroom or to your service department. It’s that simple.

According to Automotive News, “Equity-mining software, sometimes called data-mining software, enables dealerships to spot current customers who are in a good position to get out of the vehicle they have and into a new one for about the same monthly payment.” They also say it's been an absolute “gold mine” for one Honda store that has utilized it to fuel profit in nearly every one of their departments.

Top Equity-Mining Software Providers:

  • AutoAlert
  • CDK Global
  • DealerSocket’s Revenue Radar
  • Dominion Dealer Solutions
  • ELEAD1ONE Xchange
  • VinSolutions

AutoAlert has one of the industry's best data mining tools that uses advanced algorithms and analytics to reveal online trends and consumer behavior in order to provide actionable, in-market consumer intelligence. Their AlertMiner Retention Alerts will inform dealers of any and all profit opportunities as they arise. The software shows dealers when a past or potential customer’s contract is ending on a lease or purchase or if they can get a newer vehicle for the same monthly payment they have now.

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AlertMiner alerts dealerships of relevant consumer shopping behavior and when it is a good time to reach out (or not).

AutoAlertAlertMiner.jpg

DealerSocket’s Revenue Radar continuously scans your DMS in order to highlight customers that are in a favorable position to spend money at your dealership, before they shop your competitors. Their equity mining process is shown below. 

The choice is yours. Go with your gut, or go with the recession-proof combination of science and common sense. Common sense will tell you science has a higher probability of being right – despite your intuition and experience. Equity mining is at your disposal, waiting to help you reach past, present, and future customers when they are in the market to buy. You have the best data already (sales and service data), now it’s time to mine it and work it! It’s the difference between being part of the noise and being the first one to speak up when the moment is right.

Equity mining is exactly how dealerships get their ducks in a row prior to a campaign launch. It is how you avoid wasting money on prospects that are not considering a purchase. I believe in this concept so much is because it’s common sense in its purest form and much less complex than we’ve been led to believe.

Top 12 Auto Marketing Trends of 2016

A YEAR IN REVIEW: a look back at the top automotive marketing trends of 2016...and a sneak peek into 2017

Much like the state of the automotive industry over the last year, AutoHook, powered by Urban Science has withstood and conquered unprecedented change throughout 2016. As experts in digital adaptation, AutoHook is consistently on the forefront of the latest trends in digital marketing and data solutions. Below is our recap of the top 12 headlines from the last 12 months in the automotive space. You'll also get a snapshot of how to "disrupt before you get disrupted" as we kick off 2017.

Google's Senior Vice President, Amit Singhal, announces mobile searches have officially surpassed desktop over the summer of 2015.

1. THE MOBILE TIPPING POINT

We all knew it was coming, but the speed at which mobile usage has overtaken desktop has been exceptionally faster than any other digital shift in our history. As featured in AutoHook's February article conveniently titled, The Mobile Tipping Point, "There’s no denying it. Mobile has forever changed the way marketers interact and reach consumers. We’re all slaves to it. The swiping, the scrolling, the click-to-call-ing, the convenience. In so many ways the mobile experience dictates not only where our marketing should be, but also the entire advancement of communication as we know it."

Epic flooding at the Ford Dealership in Republic Missouri after 24 hours of heavy rain. Video footage courtesy of CarScoops.com

2.  NATURAL DISASTERS STRIKE DEALERSHIPS ACROSS THE U.S.

 

Mississippi River Flooding

The residents of Missouri and Illinois had a rough start to 2016 after the detrimental flooding of the Mississippi River and other waterways spanning the two states. In some areas, more than two feet of rain graced the Midwest with its presence, resulting in over 25 deaths and thousands forced from their homes in freezing temperatures. (As featured in How Dealerships Can Stay Afloat in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters).

Timbrook Kia and Timbrook Buick/GMC in Cumberland, Md., received 28 inches of snow, according to the dealer. Photo credit: DINA WILSON. Originally featured in Automotive News

Timbrook Kia and Timbrook Buick/GMC in Cumberland, Md., received 28 inches of snow, according to the dealer. Photo credit: DINA WILSON. Originally featured in Automotive News

Winter Storm Jonas Hits East Coast

Automotive News reported the “Jonas Effect” forced Toyota to temporarily close 200 of its dealerships. Herb Gordon Volvo, in Silver Spring, Maryland experienced a roof collapse due to the overly dense snow. Forbes noted auto sales were better than expected in January despite the harsh weather conditions. "Sales actually managed a small increase in January according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

“It’s not just hurricanes. Any natural disaster, such as an earthquake, can cripple a dealership. There need to be provisions for natural disasters in areas susceptible to them.”  - Mitch Phillips, Global Director of Data, Urban Science
Image courtesy of ColumbusAgency.com

Image courtesy of ColumbusAgency.com

 

3. GOOGLE'S SERP CHANGE

Google has bulletproof adaptation skills. They seek out disturbances within the digital space and adjust accordingly. Due to the fact that mobile searches have now surpassed desktop, Google altered the layout of their search engine results pages (SERPs) to better align with mobile’s responsive design. In February 2016 they stopped displaying paid ads on the right side of SERPs. (Content originally featured in AutoHook's latest eBook, Adapt or Die: The Auto Dealer's Digital Adaptation Survival Guide).

 

 

4. RISING PAID SEARCH COMPETITION

What does this mean for dealers? For starters, a huge potential for increased SEM costs and more competition for top ad ranking. Search Engine Land analyzed the results of Google’s most recent adaptability demonstration: “Looking at the median change from February 8 through March 16 (2016) for a sample of advertisers year over year, we find that first-page minimum bids continue to increase steadily since the removal of right rail text ads.”

 

5. THE CLICK-TO-CONVERSION SHIFT

"If you start with conversion first and foremost, the thousands of dollars you spend driving traffic to your site each month will actually be validated. eMarketer reported $61.5 billion will be spent on search and display alone in 2016. If the majority of your digital ad budget goes into SEM and banner ads that drive shoppers to your website, but you don’t first ensure your site has the ability to convert at a high rate, you are willingly throwing money in the garbage. It’s like throwing a pitch to home plate without a catcher. It just doesn’t make any sense." - David Metter, President, AutoHook Powered by Urban Science

6. OMNICHANNEL MARKETING BECOMES A MUST-HAVE APPROACH

Omnichannel shoppers are the most valuable to your business. When both your dealership's in-store and digital efforts communicate and work together, it creates an ideal shopping environment resulting in customer loyalty. IBM’s recent whitepaper states, “The most sophisticated retailers are enabling customers to convert on any channel. After all, shoppers who buy in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.”

Google's Kelly McNearney talks video at #DD21. Click to watch.

Google's Kelly McNearney talks video at #DD21. Click to watch.

7. VIDEO, VIDEO, VIDEO...& MORE VIDEO

Scott Empringham, CEO of Flash Point Communications joined AutoHook's panel "The Naked Truth" at Digital Dealer 21 this past August. His advice? Video is the #1 driver of consideration for new vehicles. Scott recommends dealers create 90-second videos just using their iPhone to post on social channels. “If you’re looking for a vehicle, you probably want a good look at the vehicle. Include shots of the vehicle’s exterior, interior, features and benefits.” 90-second videos have been enormously successful for Flash Point and their clients.

Fellow panelist, Kelly McNearney, Google's Senior Automotive Strategist could not agree more! Kelly says, “All I care about is online video. It’s great because you don’t need to customize your content for each individual channel, you can run the same video across platforms.” 

 

8. ONLINE BUYING: ARE WE THERE YET?

The article, 5 Reasons Online Buying is NOT Everyone's Reality highlights the results of DealerSocket's 2016 Dealership Action Report. “While there is a segment of car shoppers who want to buy vehicles online in an Amazon-like experience, a new report indicates dealers may be overestimating how strong consumer demand for this capability really is.”

 

 

Lindsay Kwaselow, April Rain, Kevin Frye and Julie Frye at #DD21 Exhibit Hall

Lindsay KwaselowApril Rain, Kevin Frye and Julie Frye at #DD21 Exhibit Hall

9. DEALERS AGREE, PAID SOCIAL ADS DO IN FACT SELL CARS

In 2016, the industry determined that social ads really do sell cars, and we heard it straight from dealers themselves! In Part I of our Naked Truth Exposed series, Alex Jefferson, eCommerce Director of Proctor Dealerships said, "Social media DOES in fact sell cars. Social outlets give us the power to build quality relationships, which then translate into quality website traffic. As long as your website converts, BOOM you can sell cars through social!"

Kevin Frye, eCommerce Director of the Jeff Wyler Automotive Family also presented at #DD21 with his session, Have You Lost Your Mind? The Demise of Common Sense in Automotive. Frye asked the question, “Can you track ROI with social media?” In his DealerRefresh recap he confirmed, "The answer is yes! I excited many dealers a few conferences back when I showed how they could build attribution models and see for themselves how they could track a return for their social media efforts."

Scott Empringham, also reminds dealers to hold their social media companies accountable. In his October blog, Empringham states, "While traditional media offer varying levels of accountability, social media (especially Facebook) is off the charts regarding accountability and transparency. In fact, it’s more accountable than the previous champion, direct mail, with only 20% of the cost."

 

10. DATA SHARING ACROSS ALL AUTOMOTIVE TIERS

* Content featured in the October 2016 edition of AutoSuccess Magazine 

* Content featured in the October 2016 edition of AutoSuccess Magazine 

AutoHook is doing our part to build one, solidified automotive railroad system by opening our API, and the sales validation data that comes with it, to all vendors – free of charge. In an industry where everyone charges to be connected, we want to be the player not to charge so that we can make stronger connections.

By adopting Apple’s open app approach, we can then simplify and unravel a very complicated subject. A subject that is perhaps the one absolute in an industry inundated with ambiguous topics like “big data” and “attribution.” Backed by near-real-time sales data from Urban Science, AutoHook has actually built an attribution engine that validates without a doubt that our solutions led directly to a sale. Sharing this type of knowledge is the one thing that could change this industry for the better. Having access to both accurate and up-to-date sales attribution data will make every decision this industry makes smarter, every solution more efficient, and every dollar we spend go further. Now THAT is something to get excited about!

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11. DMPS TAKE CENTER STAGE

During the Fall of 2016, DMPs gained escalating attention among the automotive marketing elite. In the November blog, What You Need to Know About DMPs, we learned the biggest uses for these data management platforms, including more accurate sales attribution metrics, more opportunities for personalization and one-to-one marketing, and that DMPs are an ideal tool in terms of audience targeting and segmentation. 

12. ATTRIBUTION CLAIMS ITS THRONE

In the August 2016 blog titled, AT LAST: Attribution Claims its Throne, David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science writes...

"Mark my words - 2017 is going to be THE YEAR OF ATTRIBUTION. eMarketer admitted companies have been slow to adopt proper attribution methods due to a number of obstacles, however they estimate over 50% of American businesses will make multichannel attribution a priority for their marketing efforts in the year ahead."

FUTURE FOCUS: 2017 Trends

CROSS-CHANNEL ATTRIBUTION

What is the point of marketing if you can't prove it resulted in a sale? There’s no argument that with everything our industry is capable of measuring, it all comes down to physical transactions between customers and dealers, specifically units sold and closed service ROs. That’s what you measure before anything else. That’s the reason the concept of attribution exists in the first place – to help you generate more sales and service revenue. Learn more in David Metter's December blog, VDP Views are the Top KPI...and Other Data Myths.

According to The Marketer's Guide to Cross-Channel Attribution, "Marketers need to be measuring every campaign, regardless of channel, against the same goals they set out to achieve at the start of the year. These tend to sound a lot more like increasing lifetime value and average order value, and driving repeat purchases and customer loyalty, rather than increasing open rates or click rates, reach or visits. But this is only possible through cross-channel and cross-device attribution."

EQUITY MINING

If you're not doing it already, equity mining software should be the first thing dealers put into play in 2017. If you're not familiar with the term, Automotive News explains it as, "Equity-mining software, sometimes called data-mining software, enables dealerships to spot current customers who are in a good position to get out of the vehicle they have and into a new one for about the same monthly payment." AutoAlert has one of the industry's best data mining tools that uses advanced algorithms and analytics to reveal online trends and consumer behavior in order to provide actionable, in-market consumer intelligence. Equity mining could be the difference between being a part of the noise or being the first one to speak up when the time is right. 

ONE-TO-ONE MARKETING

Personalized marketing campaigns based on a consumer's previous actions and their digital footprint are increasingly becoming the most effective, if not the only way to impact buyers at the right time. Custom-built, targeted messages with a personalized touch elicit fiercer engagement rates. People don't just want personalized messages, they now expect them and are most likely to respond to an ad or message exclusively crafted for them.

How else can you break through layers upon layers of digital ads screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" People want personal. If your marketing initiatives don't take this into consideration, you will fall flat on consumers ears and invisible to their very short (and shrinking) attention spans.

VDP Views are the Top KPI…and Other Data Myths

by David Metter

MYTH #1: VDP views are the metric that matters most. 

Since when did VDP views become more important than sales? This is not an attempt to downplay the importance of driving traffic to your VDPs. Reputable evidence exists around VDPs being one of the last digital destinations car shoppers touch before visiting a showroom. But are vehicle details page views receiving significantly more attention than they deserve? Are dealers working backwards? Are we losing sight of our one true goal…to sell more cars? 

There’s no argument that with everything our industry is capable of measuring, it all comes down to physical transactions between customers and dealers, specifically units sold and closed service ROs. That’s what you measure before anything else. That’s the reason “big data” exists in the first place – to help you generate more sales and service revenue. Dealers have more data at their fingertips than they realize, and it’s easy to get caught up trying to navigate and make sense of it all. Goals become blurred and dealers lose sight of the end game.

Allow me to remind you of the end game. When it comes to dealership operations, NOTHING is more important than increasing salesservice revenue, and customer retention – and I’m happy to take on anyone who’d like to challenge that statement.

I think our industry has completely overcomplicated the idea of big data. The role it plays is actually quite simple. When you break it down, VDP views are #5 on the “what to measure” list. Below is the infrastructure of the order in which you achieve your end game of more sales, closed service ROs, and repeat buyers.

1.    Sales Data: Securing accurate and timely sales match data is paramount. There is nothing more important. Leverage sales match data to see if a customer bought from you or somewhere else? What make and model did they choose? Was it your brand or a competitor’s brand? Monitor your pump in and pump out percent to hold onto sales in your PMA.

2.    Service Data: Measure your closed service repair orders – especially during the critical period from after a sale to the first recommended service appointment. This is where most dealers experience the biggest drop off in retention. Did the customer come to your store for their vehicle’s initial scheduled maintenance or to a competitor? Did they order replacement parts from you or somewhere else? How many people made a service appointment on your website? How many of those people actually showed up? What sales opportunities exist among your service customers?

3.    Showroom & Service Traffic: Next quantify, how many people physically came into your store or entered your service lane? The majority of people don’t have time to browse around multiple dealerships or visit your service center just for a quote. If they came to you, it’s for a reason. So make sure your staff is in the business of closing deals and ROs.

4.    Leads, Phone Calls, & Chats: When potential customers complete an action on your website, whether it’s submitting a lead form or picking up the phone to call you, that opens the door to potential sales. Metrics on your lead, call, and chat volumes are important to analyze, but it’s much more about quality than quantity. Instead of focusing your budget on more leads, calls and chats, focus on the actions that drive showroom visits.

5.    VDP Traffic: VDP views drive awareness, familiarity, and consideration. Although they can influence a customer to take further action, they do not directly result in sales.

MYTH #2: VDP traffic is the foundation for future sales. 

In what world does a VDP view hold more value than an actual human-to-human interaction? VDP views are not the foundation. Showroom traffic is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked, getting people in the door and speaking to them face-to-face is the best way to get them in a vehicle so they can touch, see, feel, drive and experience it for themselves. Show rates are infinitely more impactful than any ad or page view could ever be. Our industry has become so brainwashed, people believe more time, energy, and money should be allocated to driving VDP views rather than using those resources to drive showroom traffic. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

MYTH #3: Big data is very complex and requires experts to turn it into action.

Wrong. All too often, dealers allow outside vendors to come in and tell them what they should be measuring. Social marketers will tell you social metrics are most important. Paid search companies will tell you clicks and website traffic are the secret to more sales. Our industry is stuck in this maze of listening to incessant digital noise. But every dealership is different, and there is no one size fits all solution.  

My friends, it’s time to remove yourself from the maze and turn the volume of the noise ALLLL the way down so that you can actually hear the music. 

You and your staff are the ONLY people that should dictate what you need to measure. Take the data you already have and zero in on the metrics that involve sales, service ROs, and repeat customers. Data is simply a catalyst for determining and reaching your goals. Sales data shows you where you stand against competitors, but more importantly, how you stand against yourself historically. Sales data will tell you exactly where you are, and exactly where you need to go. 

What You Need to Know About DMPs

by David Metter

DMPs are a topic gaining escalating attention as we head into 2017. A dark cloud of big, irrelevant data still lingers above the automotive industry, just waiting to be analyzed. What are DMPs? For those of you that don’t know, the acronym stands for Data Management Platforms. Think of a DMP as a digital warehouse of data, designed to consolidate and organize consumer data from multiple sources all in one place so that it can be put to good use.

eMarketer addressed the need for advertisers to utilize DMPs back in 2013 – a near decade ago in digital time. “If data is digital marketing’s currency, then the DMP is its bank.” So, when it comes down to whether or not to use DMPs either at the dealer or manufacturer level, really dig deep and ask yourself… do you like money?

If the answer is yes, DMPs exist to give you insights that will help you make more and save more (money that is). DMPs consolidate past and real-time consumer purchase and behavioral data across ad exchanges, networks and devices. This allows for granular audience segmentation and targeting that goes far beyond standard demographics.

DMPs aren’t just a place to aggregate and store information. They help us find the most important data points that will actually help our business. And I don’t mean help down the line or months from now, but this very second. DMPs empower us to take action and deploy personalized campaigns with quantifiable conviction. These platforms are the secret to affirming what every advertiser claims they will do, which of course is to “place the right ad, in front of the right consumer, at the right time.” Sound familiar? Without DMPs, these empty promises would remain just that - empty and unproven.

DMPs are the ultimate source of budgetary efficiency for both digital and traditional spending. By illuminating a clean, 360-degree view of a consumer’s online and offline actions, DMPs pinpoint how far along car shoppers are in the buying process. They identify who in the market has already purchased a vehicle and if they bought it from a competitive dealership or brand. On the contrary, they show which consumers are just beginning their research journey, still months away from a buying decision.

Put simply, DMPs hold your campaigns accountable for their performance and help to guide your ongoing efforts to be more relevant, impactful, and efficient with where you spend your money and who you spend your money on. Specifically for the automotive sector, DMPs may be the solution to a lot of our sales attribution problems. Everyone wants to stake claim for a vehicle sold. A DMP may be just what we need to properly assign credit where credit’s due.

When asked about DMPs, Erik Lukas, Retail Operations Manager of Subaru of America said, “If there’s ever any hope of attributing all these touch points along the shopping journey, you’ve got to have some place where all the data rolls up and you can analyze it as one set.” Aside from attribution, another much-needed use for DMP-derived insights would be for one-to-one marketing and campaign personalization. Both are becoming increasingly necessary in order for a message to stand out and resonate with car shoppers.

According to MarTech Today, “A DMP offers a central location for marketers to access and manage data like mobile identifiers and cookie IDs to create targeting segments for their digital advertising campaigns.” This is a tremendous asset for automakers when it comes to eliminating waste. For example, if you are a luxury vehicle manufacturer, DMPs can help you only target individuals or households that you know have a net income of at least $200,000 per year.

In summary, the biggest uses for DMPs in the auto industry include:

  • More accurate sales attribution
  • More opportunities for personalization and one-to-one marketing
  • Ideal audience targeting and segmentation

Data management platforms are about unification – unifying consumer data from one source to the next as their shopping journey becomes more and more complex. Big data fails to hold value unless it can be applied to better influence your most lucrative audience segment. Other industries have been using DMPs for years. Automotive has such a complex business model given our three-tier system and the fact that most transactions happen offline. Therefore, we need DMPs more than anyone.

The opportunities DMPs provide are limitless. But don’t get too wrapped up in all the ways you could use them to your advantage. Remember your one objective at the end of the day is to increase dealership revenue by selling more units and obtaining more ROs. Above all, SALES is the metric that matters and DMPs should be used primarily to generate more sales. Everything else is just noise.  

We’ve Got the Data! Now What? (Top 3 Takeaways from the J.D. Power Data Expert Panel)

by David Metter

If anyone experienced the great misfortune of not being able to attend AutoHook’s J.D. Power AMR panel that had attendees lined up against the walls, I’ve got you covered. Below is a condensed collection of key insights from the session, We’ve Got the Data! Now What?

I know you’re probably all tired of hearing the term “big data.” You may even be a little nauseous from it – thus the critical need for this panel and the recap below.

First, let me formally introduce our superstar lineup. I do have to take a moment to say these leaders are not just auto experts with impressive titles. Each has proven a genuine desire to improve the way our industry operates and the way we share data for the benefit of all – and that’s huge.

It’s funny (and a little ridiculous) how often the solutions to the world’s biggest problems come from plain old common sense. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate even the most evident of concepts. Perhaps the secret to solving all this big data ambiguity is to take a step back and “under-complicate” the idea.

Three overarching themes dominated our big data discussion:

1. The largest obstruction to big data in the automotive industry is the automotive industry itself.

Pictured (left to right): Dean Evans, Kelly McNearney, Erik Lukas, Jenny Watson, & David Metter

Pictured (left to right): Dean Evans, Kelly McNearney, Erik Lukas, Jenny Watson, & David Metter

I’m not pointing any fingers, but it’s no secret that our three-tier system makes things more difficult. It creates large disconnects in communication from one layer to the next. Dean Evans points out, “We know at Hyundai you can’t do decent business today unless you are connecting those layers.”

We also know it’s rare for what happens at the dealer level to be properly recorded and communicated at the OEM level. That’s just how it is. Allow me to propose an idea. If knowledge is power, then sharing data is power. Imagine the influence we could claim if we all stopped being selfish with our data. A united industry is an unbreakable industry.

Kelly McNearney adds, “The challenge for tier three in this big data game is getting some team spirit going where dealers will actually share with the OE and the OE will share with the dealers, and then you’ve got really powerful stuff you can use. Then you can really start to understand who your consumer even is and what their actions are.”

We’ve completed step one, identifying the problem. Now it’s time to complete step two, taking action to solve the problem. So, who’s taking action? AutoHook already has by opening our API and the attribution data that comes with it to the entire industry free of charge. CDK and Dealer.com are doing it by creating centralized data dashboards so OEMs can have a better view of the consumer sales data collected at the dealership level. So who’s next?

2. More data is not necessarily better.

Pictured: Jenny Watson & David Metter

Pictured: Jenny Watson & David Metter

The secret is not obtaining more data. Sometimes it’s about doing more with what you have at your fingertips. It’s about taking smarter, more efficient actions. What’s the end goal? Jenny Watson says, “At the end of the day it’s really about units sold and the number of repair orders generated,” and she’s right! More is not better. It’s just more. An emphasis on obtaining more data may be the root cause of why the subject has become so complex.

It’s also important to note that each channel has its own specific set of measurable KPIs. Regardless of what they are, if you can’t validate that these channels resulted in a sale or a service order, then don’t waste your money advertising on them. It’s that simple.

3. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) are important to use and understand, but never at the cost of simple, actionable insights.

DMPs have been around in other industries for years. In a lot of ways, they’re starting to replace that “big data” term. Both dealers and OEMs should take advantage of these systems in order to better serve their network. Dean Evans says, “Feeding the dealer network is always paramount.” In addition, because of our three-tier system, the auto industry has the most complicated business model in existence. Therefore more than anyone, we need DMPs. They exist and are designed to help us – so use them.

Erik Lukas shined a lot of light on this subject. “There’s room for both,” he says. “There’s the big insights that come from DMPs that we need to unlock, but you still can’t ignore some of the things that are right in front of your face.” Erik gives the example of Subaru’s highly successful Dog Tested campaign and how it all began. “A key insight for us that we spawned a whole campaign off of was that 2/3 of Subaru owners own pets, and of those, 70% are dogs. Clearly, that’s not a big data or DMP derived result, but we built a whole disruption campaign around this one key insight and it’s really resonated with our customers.”

Kelly McNearney is a big advocate of DMPs especially for the automotive vertical. However, she speculates DMPs are perhaps given too much credit. “Some of the best data we have is actually something quite small, but that we can take action on,” said Kelly. She followed that up with a great example. “In the month of November for the past three years in a row, searches for tires have been at an all time high. That is a useful piece of data and that’s not from a machine, it’s not from a DMP, it’s just a simple Google Trend.”

To conclude, if you’re going to remember anything, remember these three things:

  • The only way for us to overcome barriers across tiers is to knock down the egotistical walls that separate us and work together.

  • Instead of more, more, more, when it comes to big data, remember that the end goal is to increase sales and revenue at the dealership level.

  • And lastly, do your research on DMPs and allow this tool to help you – but never ignore the immense potential of a single statistic such as 67% of Subaru owners are animal lovers.

Click here to watch the complete live recording of the J.D. Power AMR panel, We’ve Got the Data! Now What?