Last year, the automotive industry experienced a sudden, unexpected disruption as the importance of cars rapidly elevated. Although the economic impact of Covid-19 made all major car markets record double-digit declines, city dwellers who had long depended on bikes and public transport to get around took new interest in cars that could allow safe travel elsewhere.
Now we’re at the start of a new year, and the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines carries the hopes of recovering economies and permission to leave the house. Experts predict global auto market sales will increase by 9% in 2021, so brands are preparing for a stronger year with some learnings under their belts—and the need to build better digital strategies will prove essential to their success.
Just like in others, consumer behaviour around the automotive industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Previously, auto sales happened primarily offline; now, car manufacturers must shift gears to accommodate digital habits and bridge together the online and offline experience. But to do so effectively—especially in a region as diverse as Asia Pacific—brands must better manage their data, pulling insights to better understand audiences on a deeper level and fulfil their needs at speed.
Break down silos to deliver value in real-time
As the customer decision journey (CDJ) evolves in complexity, so do the data and the number of tools required to connect with consumers across it. With so many new digital touchpoints, it is becoming increasingly challenging for brands to take a full-funnel view of the consumer.
Let’s imagine the traditional car-buying experience for a moment. New car owners go through a lot of hoops before and after making their purchase: there are online and offline materials to research and purchase; the visit to the dealership to view the showroom and test drive the car; and finally, the digital platform where they will make their monthly payments. With such a fragmented journey across the different touchpoints, data is often siloed from each—so you can imagine the added complexity when you bring digital channels into the mix.
This is a recurring experience for most companies. In fact, a study by Google shows that 57% of decision-makers said their number one data challenge lies in siloed data being managed by different teams across the organization. When departments don’t share their learnings across the organization and scarcely ever collaborate with each other, a seamless integration of tooling to overcome the data challenge can never be achieved.
Nissan Motor Asia Pacific partnered with MightyHive
Then, by crossing this data with Campaign Manager 360, Display & Video 360 and Google Ads, Nissan was finally able to identify opportunities for campaign optimization in record time —helping the brand act on insights at speed through advanced creative and media campaigns better tailored to individual consumers.
Bridge the gap between online and offline experiences with data analytics
For auto sales, offline experiences like the test drive have long been the moment of truth for consumers. In the absence of in-person test drives, automakers and dealerships must offer virtualized, tangible experiences that deliver on brand promise. And this increased adoption of digital touchpoints creates a hybridized CDJ that challenges auto brands to connect online and offline experiences through data, so that insights from one can fuel the other to benefit consumers wherever and whenever they engage.
To tackle that part of their customer’s journey, we helped Nissan analyze patterns in their data using machine learning models in BigQuery, Google’s fully-managed, serverless data warehouse. This way, we found that audiences didn’t always see the models they requested to test drive when they saw a digital ad, meaning many of them were not committed to the initial car they engaged with. This highlighted an opportunity for Nissan to suggest more relevant models to test drive, increasing exposure rates and shaping brand perception.
The approach paid off: after evaluating how media campaigns impacted test drives, Nissan achieved five-times higher test drive outreach, improved bounce rate by 20% and doubled the number of important online interactions with the brand—such as usage of an online car configurator. In addition, the brand decreased the cost per test drive submissions and other valuable interactions with the website, which helped the brand extract more value from its creative with greater relevance.
As the digital landscape continues to shift, data must fuel your marketing to offer engaging experiences at every step of the journey. Brands face an urgent need to transform their data into actionable strategies that build brand value at speed within a time of unprecedented disruption. By breaking silos and connecting data across touchpoints to better serve the CDJ, auto brands can better deliver the experiences that resonate with audiences everywhere—and ultimately drive down costs by making their creative work harder and more effectively.
Vasily Popravko is SEA analytics lead at MightyHive.