Improve Your Automotive Digital Advertising Strategy with AI

min read
Improve Your Automotive Digital Advertising Strategy with AI

Today’s automotive marketers are faced with a difficult economic landscape — inflation is soaring and economists predict that a recession is coming. If you’re like other marketers in the industry, you’ve probably experienced sudden pressure to cut your paid media budgets during this period of turbulence and uncertainty.

With a shrinking budget for your automotive digital advertising strategy, it can feel like the deck is stacked against you. The question becomes, “How can I do more with less?” 

To solve this issue, leading automotive marketers use conversation intelligence. The solution uses AI to improve your marketing efficiency and help you get more bang for your buck. With conversation intelligence, you can measure your CPA from phone calls, enhance your bidding strategy, and capture valuable insights from the voice of the customer. 

Keep reading to learn how conversation intelligence can give you an edge in the coming year.

Trends in Automotive Digital Advertising 

The automotive advertising landscape is rapidly changing due to economic pressures, a change in buying habits that was accelerated by the pandemic, and rising customer experience expectations. Below, we share the top digital advertising trends and what they mean for your business.

Today’s automotive buyers favor online and phone call interactions

When we attended the automotive trade show Digital Dealer East, there was a constant refrain among the attendees: “We’re getting a lot more phone calls now.” The pandemic shifted the way consumers interact with automotive dealerships and repair centers. When social distancing measures were in place, they became accustomed to researching and scheduling appointments online or over the phone. Automotive brands invested their resources in making the digital-to-call experience as seamless as possible and consumers have continued to take advantage of these options ever since.

Customer experience expectations are at an all-time high

According to our recent Buyer Experience Report, 76% of consumers will stop doing business with a company after just one bad experience. If you don’t provide a seamless, customized experience for your customers every step of the way — regardless of channel — your digital advertising conversion rates will suffer. 

If you exceed customer experiences expectations, on the other hand, there are great rewards to reap. Our Buyer Experience report also found that 63% of consumers will pay more for a product or service to get better customer service — even in the face of soaring inflation!

Inventory-based marketing is more important than ever

In 2022, car buyers spent an average of seven months researching their options, compared to 2.7 months in 2017. Today’s car buyer is far more informed than ever before. They’re likely to know what they want before they reach out and engage with you. 

Therefore, the most successful automotive digital advertisers will take on an inventory-based marketing strategy. This means you need to target each buyer with cars in your inventory that meet their unique needs, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. To accomplish this at scale, automotive marketers capture voice of the customer insights from phone calls with conversation intelligence solutions like Invoca.

Automotive Consumers Prefer to Call During the Buying Journey

According to our recent Buyer Experience Report study, 31% of consumers say phone calls are their favorite way to contact an automotive business. When it comes to conversions that happen offline, particularly calls to dealership locations, many marketers are entirely flying blind, while others may have access to proxy metrics like click-to-call data. A click on the call button equals a conversion, right? Not exactly. it’s a guess, you know it’s a guess, and it’s messing up your attribution.

If you don’t have data from every touchpoint in your customer journey, you’re probably blowing money on campaigns that aren’t really performing and your CPA calculation is going to be way off. In fact, we looked at survey data from over 500 marketers and found they’re overestimating their CPA by 46% on average! And with tightening digital marketing budgets, that’s not a great option. Thankfully, there are some fairly simple ways to use AI to get better visibility into your buying journey and accurately compute your true CPA and understand your ROAS.

How to Measure Your True CPA

To fix this, first thing’s first, you have to be able to calculate your true CPA. That means you need to be able to account for all of your conversions driven by paid media, including the ones that happen over the phone at your dealership locations or service centers.

In this example, you’re only tracking online conversions, meaning conversions that are completed entirely online through the website. So you’re spending $10,000 a month on ads and reporting 50 online conversions with that ad spend. This means you’d have a $200 CPA. That might seem high or low depending on your business, but let’s not get too caught up in the exact numbers.

Just by using a conversation intelligence or call tracking platform that uses AI to analyze conversations and determine what calls are converting to get visibility into the conversions that happen over the phone, you find out that this ten thousand dollar ad spend is actually driving 100 conversions. Without making any other changes, this cuts your measured CPA in half.

This is what we call your “true CPA.” From there, it gets really exciting when you start using AI-derived conversation data to optimize campaigns and see a big improvement in CPA, which we’ll get into next. 

Optimizing Google Smart Bidding with Call Tracking Data

One of the great examples of AI enabling marketing optimization automation is Google Smart Bidding. A lot of SEM marketers who were accustomed to making manual bidding adjustments were rightfully wary of the technology at first. How can it know better than me when I know my business so well? Well, first, there’s just no way that people can economically do keyword bidding adjustments in real time on any sort of scale. 

With Smart Bidding, you can set it up to optimize to your goal, whether that’s clicks, CPA, or conversions, so you can even end up saving money, or at least getting better returns because Google is putting it against keywords that actually drive results that matter to you.

AutoNation, America’s largest and most admired auto retailer, uses call tracking data to inform Google Smart Bidding. AutoNation passes Invoca’s call attribution data into Google Ads, allowing it to optimize bids and CPCs based on both online and phone call conversions, ensuring they’re getting the most out of their campaign budgets.

“Our biggest problem was that our phone calls were going into a data black hole,” said Anand Rao, SVP of digital business at AutoNation. “We couldn’t tie a sale back to the campaign that drove it and that made it difficult for us to optimize our media spend. Invoca has given us complete visibility into the campaigns driving each call as well as what happens on those calls. It’s enabled us to get a higher return on our ad dollars and prove our full ROI.”

Read the full AutoNation case study here.

Reduce Wasted Ad Spend with Offline Conversion Data

Ad suppression is a key tool in the digital marketer’s kit to eliminate wasted ad spend by ensuring that they aren’t serving (and paying for) ads shown to existing or recently-acquired customers. However, this can become a challenge if those conversions are happening offline. 

By tracking all call conversions with Invoca and pushing this information into platforms like Criteo, Skai, or Marin Software, marketers can automatically suppress ads to those who have already converted over the phone. This not only reduces wasted ad spend, it prevents you from annoying your new customers with irrelevant ads.

Gain New Customer Insights and Increase Conversion Rates with AI

Today, customers expect more personalized and empathetic experiences than ever. In order to provide this, though, you need deep knowledge about your customers’ needs and their experiences.

AI-powered tools offer myriad ways for you to better know your customers and improve their experiences, online and offline. Using web analytics tools like Fullstory and Decibel, you can discover moments when your customers are frustrated with your web experience without them even telling you. Whether it’s cursors wandering like they’re lost in the forest or mouse-pounding rage clicking on broken buttons, you can see exactly what’s not working and fix it quickly to improve online conversion rates. 

By integrating data derived from online conversations with these web analytics tools, you can also see where customers drop out of the online experience and call for help. With this information in hand, you can optimize the online experience to allow customers to do what they want online, AND make it easy for them to call when it’s time to make a high-value purchase that can benefit from a human touch to close the lead.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca’s AI can help you improve your automotive digital advertising strategy? Check out these resources:

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