Carsales is not only a one-stop shop for consumers, it is the most data rich auto marketing platform in Australia. AdNews caught up with head of product and insights Sam Granleese to find out how auto brands are using the platform to connect to consumers and make more effective stocking, timing, pricing and marketing decisions.
AdNews: The past 10 years has seen a significant increase in investment from the auto sector into digital channels. This growth in ad revenue means that digital transparency is a hot topic in the advertising industry. What is carsales doing to address the issue?
Sam Granleese (SG): Carsales’ media solutions sit inside a bigger ecosystem that’s a marketplace of car buyers and sellers. his environment is based on authenticated personal data, online body language, highly granular vehicle history and high volumes of real transactions. We love being asked about media attribution, driving consideration, or the influence of marketing on sales because we can drill right into these outcomes, and rewind the clock to observe what influenced these changes in the marketplace, when and how.
Lately we’ve been big supporters of commonly accepted marketing concepts that have been forgotten in the rush to digital and automation - such as the power of context or in-category reach vs precision targeting. Our business started as an ecommerce and car sales website, so being able to quantify and prove that our products and solutions generate sales has always been part of our DNA.
SG: The shortening is a consequence of growing consumer confidence. The more access to the right information, and growing trust in certain digital ecosystems is leading to a more informed and empowered consumer - and even willingness to pay deposits or transact a car contract online.
The interesting thing is that in the early stage of the journey, what we call the landscape and validate stages, haven't changed too much. It’s really the conversion from consideration to intent or action that has contracted.
AdNews: What does this mean for auto marketers?
SG: For marketers, that means when someone is considering a vehicle retailers have to be available and responsive to consumers immediately. If you're being compared with someone else and you’re not engaging quickly enough the other car brand will get the sale.
The competition at the bottom end of the funnel has never been greater because consumers want to close the loop. That conversion into shopping and pricing and transacting has rapidly sped up, so it is important for marketers to be able to convert that awareness storytelling, that branding and educational aspect into retail and action. Those two often different phases of consumer engagement need to come together in the auto space much more cohesively.
AdNews: Is the market getting to a level of confidence and trust where the whole consumer journey could take place online without the need for test drives or dealership visits?
SG: Yes, we see a massive opportunity for buyers to do online transactions. It's not that they won't do a test drive, but we predict that tactile test drive experience will happen much earlier as part of the research phase. And when they are ready to transact it will happen online and they won't require a secondary test drive. Of course there will be consumers that are unlikely to conduct their purchase online but our research suggests they’re in the older demographics.
With used cars or old cars it's a different story because you are assessing its condition - but with brand new cars protected by consumer laws buyers are much less worried once they've had an experience, whether it's in a shopping centre, a test drive or driving a friend’s car.
It will be a slow transition though, because there is such a huge investment in the retail footprint of new car sellers. We also predict there will be growth of online buying in groups where English is a second language and certain groups of women that are more informed and don't want that confrontational experience and upselling in the dealership.
AdNews: I understand carsales has developed the functionality to allow consumers to buy cars from manufacturers online. Can you elaborate on this?
SG: We have built the whole infrastructure for a leading OEM website. You can buy all of their range of models online, end-to-end. We're making that technology available to other companies from January next year. It will happen on our website, manufacturers' master brand and/or dealer websites. We've had a number of genuine enquiries from major manufacturers.
AdNews: Data is increasingly important to marketers and advertisers, enabling them to personalise and contextualise messaging for consumers. How is carsales utilising data to enable brands to better connect with consumers?
SG: We have a lot of intent data, such as online body language that tracks how people act in our marketplace. What we do with that is personalisation - making the experience more attuned to who they are and where they are in the buying cycle. It also allows marketers to present the right type of communications to them, whether that's classified content, brand content or retail content. This really optimises the customer experience.
Our marketplace is a treasure trove for car brands who are trying to understand buyer profiles, demand, product mix, competitive differentiation, feature popularity and pricing. The big opportunities we are focused on is going beyond personalisation - understanding how they can link marketplace activity, such as live demand for different cars and models, to their inventory control and their life-cycle planning. This data can be fed back up the supply chain to help make more effective stocking, timing, pricing and marketing decisions.
That fusion between the information of our customers and what they've done in the past with what they are doing now – live online body language data – is really powerful and we match that with the very accurate vehicle data that powers our analytics. We definitely see ourselves as a marketing solutions business, not just an advertising business.
Read the feature: Digital is driving a new auto journey
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