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Customer Acquisition Lessons From the Auto Industry

Customer Acquisition Auto Industry Marketing

According to a recent study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 96 percent of consumers research online before making a large purchase, especially when considering a new car.  And the auto industry has taken notice, embracing digital and social platforms better than most of their colleagues in other industries.

However, there’s nothing new in reporting the fact that auto manufacturers have been leading the way in innovative digital and social marketing efforts. Those following the industry are familiar with Ford Motor Company’s success in diverting traditional advertising investment to social media community building and advocate marketing.  It has adapted to new digital channels, starting with Facebook and YouTube and now, the increasingly popular short-form channels such as Twitter and Vine.

Ford Is No Longer the Stand Out

Within its industry, Ford may have pioneered lead acquisition and branding through digital marketing but it is certainly not alone anymore. This fall, Lexus offered a virtual test drive using the virtual reality technology Oculus Rift. Volkswagen successfully created as series of 5-second YouTube ads to tease potential customers. The ads, which were too short to “skip” as YouTube video watchers are apt to do, created instant buzz and drove a high percentage of new consumers to engage with the brand.

What new lesson we can learn from the auto industry’s use of digital and social media customer acquisition strategies  is its growing use of multi-channel, data-driven campaigns.  The industry has shifted its digital marketing into “high gear,”as it were.

Collective Auto produced a report on the auto industry’s use of multiscreen programmatic campaigns, in which it referenced the latest BMW consumer engagement strategy.

“BMW set a new benchmark for consumer engagement when the company launched its BMW X3 Customer Video Portal. The Portal allowed customers to watch their car being built in real-time—an engaging, socially sharable moment of excitement and brand engagement. It was perfectly timed to capitalize on the red-hot popularity of social video channels such as YouTube, and an innovative way to capitalize on multiscreen media consumption.”

Data-Driven, Contextually Relevant Marketing

The report continues by suggesting that because consumers are universally connected, conventional targeting methods are not as effective as they once were.  The proliferation of channels, screens, and digital choice has made it impossible to effectively reach qualified prospects with traditional, narrow, media-specific campaigns.

According to the report, the new programmatic approach being utilized by auto marketers “uses multisource data to find and target the buying audience across all channels, including online, display, video, and television. With a combination of in-house profiling, past purchase data, and rich demographic insights, marketers can define and then target near- and in-market consumers.”

You can download the full report from AdWeek’s website here.

Clearly, it’s no longer enough to simply produce innovative and engaging digital campaigns in hopes that the online community will enable the next viral hit. As we move into the next age of social marketing, understanding customers’ online patterns and behaviors, and merging device-specific, real-time engagement with historical consumer data to serve up local and relevant ads, will be critical.

Sensei Debates

Has the online world become too crowded and competitive for “traditional digital media” to work?  Can smaller businesses compete without the aid of big data to personally target online prospects?

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego


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