Digital ad spending in the US auto industry has steadily increased over the past few years, and this trend is expected to continue. According to eMarketer, the industry should see a 16.3% increase in digital ad spending this year, going from $7.30 billion in 2015 to $8.49 billion in 2016. This means the automotive industry now ranks second in the United States, behind only retail, for digital ad spending (US Auto Industry Ahead of the Pack). Much of this increase in digital spend is happening at the local level, coming right from dealerships rather than the OEM.
A changing landscape
As automotive dealer networks and owners spend more in the digital space, the need to effectively measure the true ROI of digital marketing campaigns has grown significantly. The days of simply using intermediate metrics, such as leads and digital shopping actions, to measure the effectiveness of a campaign are coming to an end. Dealers want their digital marketing efforts to move metal on their lots. They are looking to their partners for solid analytics that connect the actions users are taking online to the actions they are taking offline, such as the actual purchase of a vehicle. This need has caused analysts, strategists, and other digital marketers to look for ways to make that connection.
Making the connection
Search Optics recently launched the first-to-market product, UPTRACS® Match. Using third-party data, the product ties display and video impressions served directly to vehicle sales. This allows digital marketers and data analysts to measure success based on actual sales lifts as well as other metrics such as cost-per-vehicle-sold. OEMs and dealers have never been closer to measuring true ROI in the digital space than they are now. This shift in measuring digital ad effectiveness is changing the way data analysts in the auto industry report campaign success and is drastically changing the conversations that marketing service providers are having with their clients.
Not a perfect science….yet
This measurement process is still relatively new, and there are still improvements that need to be made. Many times, the metrics reflect that of a group exposed to an ad versus a control group of users who were not exposed to ad units, and who may not be in-market online auto shoppers. One could see how the sales lift would be much higher for the exposed group, as you are measuring an in-market shopper against an audience that may not be in-market for a car or truck. The true value to your auto clients comes when you can show them that your campaigns caused a larger sales lift than those by other partners they are working with or have worked with. This is not always easy to do, however, as most marketers don’t readily share their analytics with the industry. Therefore, industry benchmarks must be adopted to determine the true success of a campaign (i.e., what is a good sales lift percentage?) and these benchmarks are still being developed. It will be exciting to see how this trend evolves moving forward in 2016 and beyond. In automotive, just like every other industry, the need to connect online actions with offline actions will only continue to increase.