Top Automotive Digital Marketing Trends for 2013


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2012 was a watershed year in automotive digital marketing, as marketing automation systems became more common, enabling users to send a higher volume of more relevant messages to customers and prospects. What will 2013 bring? Which techniques and technologies will still be relevant and which will fade into the background?

Through our work with automotive clients, including Toyota and Chevrolet through agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and Agency 720, we’ve identified four critical trends to watch for in 2013:

Don’t get lost in big data.

Auto manufacturers and dealers are now collecting a lot of data, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume. They need to keep their eyes on the prize: using that data to convert leads to sales. Often, behavioral data is a good place to start and helps avoid analysis paralysis. For instance, use predictive models to determine which prospects are ready to buy (versus those who are still shopping) based on their email clicks and website visits, and then send an offer designed to get them into the showroom so salespeople can close deals. Behavioral data is a goldmine in terms of determining the right timing and the most relevant offers for a customer segment.

Mobile is the new black.

Automotive brands and dealers need to be where their customers are, and increasingly that’s on mobile devices. Mobile device sales exceeded laptop sales for the first time in 2012. Marketers need to adjust to this new world with websites and emails built using responsive design techniques, which ensure they can be viewed correctly on different sized screens—even small smartphone screens. Also consider chat; while many dealers seem to think chat is on a downward trend, we disagree. Anyone who’s taking the initiative to chat with a dealer is a good lead. The difference today is that customers are more likely to be chatting from a mobile device. Make sure your chat technology can support the mobile channel.



Reports of direct mail’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Many automotive brands and dealers ask us if they still need to use direct mail. We believe it can still be effective as part of a multi-channel optimization strategy. We see many marketers who are overly reliant on email. The fact is, while email marketing is very effective in most customer segments, not all customers will respond to it. Direct mail can still be effective, because it has such a broad reach, especially if you are able to leverage data to offer custom incentives for particular segments, such as aftermarket packages for owners of particular models. Direct mail, voice, email, and mobile marketing are all important, and all tend to appeal to different types of customer segments.

Offer-optimization trumps generic coupons.

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Too many dealers rely on repeated oil change offers to try to draw customers in for service instead of looking at the data they’re collecting to optimize offers. Today’s digital marketing tools make it so easy to segment customers and then customize offers based on vehicle type and other factors and let you experiment with different types of incentives. Look at response rates and fine-tune incentives based on what works best instead of just doing the same old thing.

Bryan Harwood is an innovative technology leader with a depth of experience building out data and transaction processing systems on a massive scale for global enterprises. At Outsell, Bryan leads the project management, product management and IT teams focusing on the development and scaling of the Outsell Digital Engagement Platform. Previously, Bryan was with Galileo/Travelport, Sun Microsystems and IBM.

Michael Bowen

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