Automotive under pressure.

Automotive under pressure.

Daimler AG recently announced that early post Covid growth would be wiped out by semi-conductor shortages affecting supply of vehicles industry wide.

Its sales for the month of June fell after growing each month this year. They aren’t the first.  Other manufacturers including Jaguar, Land Rover, Nissan, Hyundai Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG have also warned of shrinking sales through the summer.

It comes at a time when pressure on sales and disruption in the industry is at an unprecedented level.  Government sales targets for EV’s, shifts to online sales (and the emergence of online pure-play models such as Cazoo) and new subscription ownership models (see Care by Volvo or Audi on Demand) are all disrupting the industry as a whole and objectives within marketing departments.

Working with several automotive clients we see CMO’s and marketing teams finding it hard to balance long term improvements to approach and experience, with pressure to ‘shift metal’ in the short term.

At times like these, disruption turns to distraction.

Research by Accenture says 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. When put into practice on programmatic creative management platforms like AD.LIB.IO, the results speak for themselves with 50% reductions in acquisition cost and 5-15% increases in revenue from campaigns. They see 50% reductions in acquisition cost and 5-15% increases in revenue from campaigns run through them.

Whilst many car manufacturers have invested in the aggregation of customer data, this investment hasn’t translated into more relevant advertising or better experiences for customers.  One size fit’s all approaches to lead generation are normal.  Those considered ‘in market’ are delivered a single creative based on the model being launched, without any consideration of what someone might need.

Our own experience working with automotive clients, shows that simply aggregating data to be more precise in ‘in-market’ lead generation can deliver at least 5% increase in sales.  Matching this with more relevant creative and targeting across media takes this percentage higher. Perhaps this is why Ford are becoming far more targeted in lower funnel communications.

Though the pressure to improve approaches to targeting has abated with Google’s announcement that it will delay the deprecation of third-party cookies by a further two years to mid-2023, the need is still there.  Those that are winning today are those without legacy systems or operations.  Tesla and MG are the fastest growing car brands this year so far.  The changes to the approach required will take time for most traditional car brands.

It’s time to get personal

In an industry characterised by fragmented customer data and disconnected experience, a connected approach to data and creative in CRM and digital has never been more important.

Prioritising operational change in the face of sales pressure is always a challenge, for many manufacturers, siloed marketing teams and agency relationships make this especially hard.

In our experience three steps are key:

1. Take control of data: Aggregating data and insight where it exists in multiple platforms.  Ideally implementing a Customer Data Platform to organise and analyse.  Considering use of a data clean room where large dealer group databases house large pools of insight.

2. Segment for relevance:  Build an approach to segmentation based on customer and audience behaviour demonstrated in the buying process. Creating a platform for greater relevance in communications, applied campaign to campaign.

3. Connect to creative:  Bake this segmentation into the brief from the start. Ensure that each launch campaign generates a big idea that can flex and connect between different audience groups.

As we face the removal of lockdown restrictions and a return to the office perhaps it’s an opportunity for car manufacturers to re-focus on customers in their own operations and those of their agencies.