Are You Ready to Ride the Third Wave of the Internet?

The next wave of the internet is about to peak, and will have a transformative effect on automotive marketing

The third wave of the internet is about to peak, and it will have a transformative effect on automotive marketing.

But first, some history about the internet’s three waves.

First wave: Infancy

The first wave crested in the early 1990s—it wasn’t the birth of the internet, but it’s when people outside academia and science began using it. Use was primarily via desktop computer, and approximately 16 million people were online by 1995.

Remember America Online (AOL)? That was first-wave internet. Websites were still somewhat novel, and when a company launched a website, it would come with big media fanfare.

Second wave: Adolescence

The second wave of the internet crested circa 2010, and can be summed up in one word: mobile. By now, 2 billion people were online, and they became accustomed to getting information and goods whenever and wherever they were, on demand.

It was the Internet untethered. If AOL was the poster child for first-wave internet, Uber is now the poster child for the second wave.

Static websites from the first wave became passé, and mobile-friendly, responsive websites became necessities when mobile web traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time.

Third wave: Early adulthood

The third wave of the internet hasn’t crested yet, but is about to. It’s all about the Internet of Things (IoT), the fast-growing network of physical devices that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and how everything and everybody is now connected to the internet and each other.

What's the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The IoT refers to the fast-growing network of physical devices that feature an IP address for internet connectivity—not only computing devices like laptops, smartphones and smart watches, but also vending machines, refrigerators and cars. In theory, those devices can all communicate with each other to automate certain functions. Businesses can use the IoT to lower operating costs, increase productivity and expand to new markets or develop new product offerings. According to Business Insider, the number of IoT devices connected to the Internet will more than triple by 2020, from 10 billion to 34 billion. IoT devices will account for 24 billion, while traditional computing devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, smart watches, etc.) will comprise 10 billion. Nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years.

In the second wave, you could connect to devices—like your car, home thermostat, and security system—with your phone. In the third wave, these devices will talk to each other. Your car will alert your thermostat that you’re almost home, so it can crank up the air conditioning in preparation for your arrival.

The IoT will generate tremendous amounts of data, and will also lead consumers to expect individualized experiences.

Each waves’ effect on automotive

In the first wave, customers could type “Chevrolet” into a Mozilla browser, and if they were lucky, find raw HTML links to a bare-bones Chevrolet website and maybe one or two local dealers. Email marketing emerged because email itself was emerging, and not many consumers had accounts yet. Direct mail ruled—and developed a bad reputation as “junk mail.”

In the second wave, every dealer had a website, most had mobile/responsive websites, and email marketing became the norm. More sophisticated automotive marketers gained the ability to segment email campaigns, just as they had with direct mail in the past.

Near the end of the second wave, marketers got better at targeting their pitches and raising response and conversion rates, to escape the dreaded spam moniker.

In the third wave, automotive marketing will become analytics driven, individualized, automated, and dynamic. Online and offline behavior will merge into one.

Automotive marketers will be able to track all of it, and customize sales and marketing accordingly. Data and advanced analytics will help dealers deliver relevant information to car buyers before they even know they want it.

You may wonder how big data is used in practice. Telecom companies can now better predict customer churn, Walmart can predict what products will sell, and car insurance companies understand how well their customers actually drive.

That’s the power of advanced analytics, a power that marketers are just now learning to harness and use.

The promise of the third wave

Automotive shoppers are overwhelmed by the amount of choices they have, and the amount of information being thrown at them.

In order to cut through the clutter, dealers need to understand buyers, maybe better than they understand themselves, and deliver an individualized experience—much like a personal assistant that delivers the coffee before you have to ask.

That’s the promise of the third wave, enabled by the data-gathering IoT and advanced analytics technology like predictive analytics and machine learning. If you use Netflix or Amazon, you’ve seen how this works—both of these companies leverage data to predict what you might like or want to buy next.

Automotive marketers will soon be doing the same. It sounds complex—and it is—but fortunately, these technologies are being incorporated into analytics platforms that mask the complexity.

When combined with predictive analytics, machine learning helps marketers better target their offers to exactly the right people with unprecedented precision. Best of all, the process can be automated, so marketers can send individualized offers to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers.

Marketers will benefit from a greatly simplified process where machines do most of the work, and consumers benefit from a lower volume of offers that are highly relevant and timely.

In the third wave, it will be common for dealers to discover:

  • Current owners re-entering market
  • Customers who are currently shopping and may defect to another brand or dealer
  • Opportunities for other profit centers
  • Intelligence on existing leads
  • Dormant first- and third-party leads coming back to life

And they’ll be able to optimize marketing campaigns across multiple channels, online (including mobile and social) and offline.

The third wave of the internet will be an exciting time for the automotive industry because of its likely transformative effect on the marketing and sales of new vehicles.

Valerie Vallancourt is a dynamic, strategic marketing professional with expertise in creating and executing marketing strategies for revenue growth. Valerie has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, and is currently vice president of marketing at Outsell, which helps auto dealers drive more revenue by transforming how they engage customers and prospects throughout their life cycle.

Valerie Vallancourt


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