Avoid ‘running blind’ in dealership marketing


Here’s an example of dealership marketing based on first-party customer data — the data the dealership keeps about its own customers.

A Ford shopper bought an F-150 pickup from Dealership A and is now searching for lease deals on a new truck. But Dealership A’s advertising provider doesn’t have visibility into the store’s sales history, so it doesn’t know that its customer is searching for new lease deals and, thus, doesn’t work hard to get an ad in front of the shopper.

Dealership B, meanwhile, knows that F-150 shopper is in its primary market area and moves aggressively to show the person an ad for F-150 lease deals.

“The rest is history,” Lauren Donalson, senior director of national accounts at dealership marketing provider PureCars, told me. “Once you win the click, you’ve now won the engagement, you’ve now won the lead, you’ve now won the [sale].”

In this week’s issue, I explore the phasing out of third-party cookies — the tags that follow you across the Internet and the reason an ad for the shoes you browsed yesterday pops up while you’re reading an article on a different website today — and the effects of that shift on auto marketers. Several told me that a dealership’s own data is going to become even more important for targeting consumers with personalized ads based on their shopping behavior when dealerships no longer can use aggregated consumer data from third parties.

Third-party data is what has long made advertising so powerful, Donalson said. Most dealerships are probably used to building lists for email or direct-mail marketing campaigns with data pulled from their dealership management or customer relationship management systems, she said. But using that first-party information on a consistent and frequent basis will be “the new norm” in dealership advertising.

“We have visibility into items like: Does this customer who’s now searching on Google have a history of purchasing or servicing with this dealer?” she said.

“To put this another way, or to flip it on its head: Without that intelligence, dealers are running blind, and they will undoubtedly lose market share.”

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