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paid search

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.

Part II: The Naked Truth Exposed [Paid Search, Retargeting & Budget Allocation]

Part II: The Naked Truth Exposed [Paid Search, Retargeting & Budget Allocation]

AutoHook’s nation-wide survey conducted over the last 3-months revealed the top five digital marketing topics dealers currently struggling with. These issues were addressed and exposed during Digital Dealer 21’s most jam-packed session, the Naked Truth. 

Part I: The Naked Truth Exposed [Social & Video Marketing]

Part I: The Naked Truth Exposed [Social & Video Marketing]

Three marketing powerhouses combined forces at DD21 for one of the most insightful sessions of the year, moderated by yours truly. The Naked Truth was a 50-minute dose of digital reality poured straight up. Our no-nonsense mission of tackling the ambiguous topics that shadow the automotive universe was such a success, every chair in the room was filled and attendees were lined up against the walls. Literally, we ran out of seats.

Digital Wake Up Call: 3 Marketing Myths & How to Overcome Them

I always say the most successful marketers are the ones that look for problems and inefficiencies and implement new ways of thinking to solve them. There are those that follow, blend, and eventually fade, and then there are those that inspire change for the better. Einstein measured human intelligence solely by a person’s ability to change. There has been a trend in our industry that has gained a more than significant following. The time has come to take a step back, reevaluate, and make a change that will eradicate wasted ad spend.

Is Your Paid Search Paying Off?

By David Metter

It’s time for a reality check. I’d like to begin with pointing out the fact that more often than we realize, the correct solution to a problem is both obvious and simple. We live in a common sense world, but I think people forget that sometimes. From a young age, we’re programed to be “critical thinkers” and to look at a situation from all vantage points. Our encoded mental paradigms tell us we should analyze, overanalyze, and overcomplicate every possible variable that may contribute to a desired outcome. On the contrary, according to Ockham’s Razor, a scientific theory dating back to the 14th century, “the simplest solution is usually the correct one.” Spending my entire career in the auto industry, with much of it in a dealership, we skip most of this (thankfully) but there should be a happy medium. It’s where common sense meets analyzed data. 

Paid search, or pay-per-click, while it may appear to be an affordable form of advertising, there is a significant breakdown in the attribution no matter how transparent and detailed the reporting. Plain and simple, paid search is complicated. As one of the first automotive marketers to use paid search over 10 years ago, I have “complicated” scars. Yes, you can see the amount of clicks your campaign received. You can see the impressions. You can see the engagements. But can you see, validate, and know that a paid click led directly to a showroom visit without any other factors involved? Absolutely not. People looking for information doesn’t in any way translate to a sale. So, how do you measure the true ROI?

Think about how much you spend driving people to your website each month. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are devoted to driving potential customers to your site in hopes of converting a click to a sale. As of today, the vast majority of customers cannot and will not purchase a car on your website. Therefore, dealers depend on leads to attempt to convert web traffic into showroom traffic.

The stats speak for themselves. There is no arguing that well under 5% of website visitors will complete the standard dealership lead form. Specifically, WardsAuto, DealerRefresh, and other industry leaders report 3-7% of automotive shoppers actually submit leads. CDK’s Digital Business Intelligence study shows only 1% of auto shoppers submit email leads from dealer websites.

It’s time we stop chasing imaginary attribution lines. If something isn’t working 95%-99% of the time, we need to do something about it. We need to direct our attention towards something we can quantify without a shadow of a doubt that led to a sale. We need to change the game – or more specifically, change the average lead form.

Let me provide you with a real life example. Just a few weeks ago, in February, 2016 (with only five days left in the month), a leading OEM came to my team asking what we could do to help push them to a stronger close. Typically, OEMs will rush to spend more money on search or display to increase traffic and then hope and pray that web traffic will convert to leads and showroom visits before the month ends. Unfortunately, that’s tough to do in five days. Its tough to do in 10 days, but manufacturers and dealers chase this same avenue month after month. But this particular OEM knew they had sufficient site traffic. What they needed was to see it convert in the showroom. AutoHook’s incentives generated more than 1,800 showroom visits in just five days and these customers were directly attributed to nearly 800 sales in the same time period - something I would challenge any digital effort to perform and validate.

In the Bounce Exchange’s latest Guide to PPC they acknowledge the tremendous waste potential of paid search. “Whether you’re a do-it-yourself small business or an agency managing hundreds of thousands of PPC dollars, you are leaving money on the table right now. Guaranteed.” Even worse, you could unknowingly be creating more opportunities for your competitors or just tossing money straight to Google. Their advice? “Move your budget into something that works.” More importantly, make sure that you have better and bigger nets to catch the fish. 

Let’s be clear. I am not saying don’t do paid search. It can be a great tool for driving traffic to your website, however it’s not ideal for converting actual sales or showroom visits. The reality is, paid search is not simple, and you can’t draw a straight line from your search campaign to a vehicle sold. A smart PPC provider, and more importantly a smart marketer, knows the difference between “researcher” and “buyer” search terms and online actions. Which do your campaigns target? What about your inventory? Are your search efforts boosting aging units or wasting ad dollars on high demand vehicles that will sell on their own?

Buyer search terms are specific and measurable. Buyers know what they want down to the year, make, model, and color. Most will not contact you before coming in for a test drive, UNLESS your website provides an experience that gives them something in return for submitting their personal information. Yes, I’m referring to offering incentives just for coming in for a test drive. It’s so simple. Give something to get something. If you are willing to pay for a click, why wouldn’t you be willing to pay for a showroom visit? Heck, they probably would have clicked anyway.

At the end of the day, you can empty your pockets in attempt to drive the world to your website. But the real question is, does your website convert once they arrive?