Have you ever seen an advertisement online for a product right after having a conversation about it with someone? While this level of targeted marketing might seem invasive at first, today’s customer wants a highly personalized online experience. Here to tell us how dealers can implement effective, data-driven marketing while protecting consumer privacy, is Kevin LeSage, director of digital marketing at Autotrader.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Hello everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining me on another edition of CBT News. Today we’re going to be talking about digital marketing with the guru himself, Mr. Kevin LeSage, who is director of digital marketing at Autotrader. So I know you know that name, that brand, been around forever, knocking the cover off the ball for dealers all around the country. Thanks for joining us, Kevin.
Kevin LeSage: Of course. Thanks for having me here today.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. So let’s kind of jump right in here. As technology becomes more integrated with the customer experience, customers really do want more of a personalized experience, right? What are some ways dealers can prepare to communicate with customers better?
Kevin LeSage: So Jim, I think the thing that we’ll all agree on is, the most important part of this is knowing the laws and your limit, right? And the laws are always changing around how technology companies can actually accumulate this personal data. And in fact, 2019, Apple just changed their ITP laws, which essentially block cookies. So one of the most important things I know for a dealer today is as the technology is advancing and the laws are changing, make sure you find a trusted partner that knows what they’re doing, has the data to back up the strategy, and is obviously playing by the laws and the limit there.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s huge. And hopefully dealers have a trusted partner in that by now, right? One that they can count on. So how can dealers implement a successful data-driven strategy in today’s digital age?
Kevin LeSage: So the easiest way I can break this down is really a two-phase answer. The first is going to be analyze your data. You know, most dealers I’m working with today are familiar with Google Analytics. They have Google Analytics set up or they’re leveraging analytics coming in from their website provider. But either way, dealers need to make sure that that data that they’re reviewing is set up correctly first, but then that they’re managing it on a monthly basis. They’re looking for those trends. They’re identifying the quality traffic coming into their website and where they’re getting those real engagements. And the surprising fact is when we looked across all of our Dealer.com websites, which I think is over 12,000 websites or something close to that today-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Wow.
Kevin LeSage: The average was 30 to 40% of all tier three traffic coming to the websites was not showing any buying signal. There was no real engagement. So what I mean by that is they were on the site for less than three seconds. They never viewed inventory. They’re obviously not submitting forms or putting vehicles in a shopping cart.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.
Kevin LeSage: So if dealers take the first step of analyzing their own data, they can identify those trends and find the quality. And the second piece to that is going to be activating your data, right? Dealers have been around for sometimes generations at this point and they have thousands and thousands of names in their CRM. So at this point, let’s look at activating our data in phase two here to make sure that we can start building those relevant audience segments. And looking at people that have good credit versus poor credit or truck buyers or sedan buyers, et cetera. And segment your own first-party data into those audiences, which is going to help you, moving forward, actually attract the right ad for the right customer. And that’s really personalization, right?
Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. That’s, that’s what it’s all about. So what exactly does it mean to create consumer profile insights?
Kevin LeSage: So the easiest way I can explain that is really with what we’re doing at Cox Automotive, and we have the beauty of having Autotrader, VinSolutions, Dealer.com, vAuto, and all of these major brands in automotive. So, what we’re doing to build consumer profile insights is connecting the dots between all of those different platforms.
Kevin LeSage: So I’ll use the example of my wife right now. We’re currently expecting our second child and we’re realizing that her vehicle is just not big enough to support the second car seat and the two dogs, right?
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.
Kevin LeSage: So she’s starting to evaluate trades on Kelley Blue Book, and she’s also looking at used Subaru models within a 50 mile radius on Autotrader up in Vermont, and we’re looking at the different options we have available. But that signals an in-market shopper, right? They’re doing a trade eval, they’re looking at used models, and things like that.
Kevin LeSage: So what we’re doing at Cox Automotive to build consumer profile insights is connecting those dots with our automotive business units, but then also leveraging third-party consumer data as well. So we can start looking at life events that they’re going through, if they’re expecting a child, if they have… Whatever the case is. So merging the first-party Cox Automotive audience data that we have with third-party audience allows us to start building those consumer profile insights. And the crazy thing is with all of our data, we’ve built insights in the last 90 days for 38 million households.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh my gosh, 38 billion.
Kevin LeSage: Yeah, we’re obviously connecting the dots between all of our brands and we have dedicated teams to building out this new artificial intelligence.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s really exciting. What advice would you give to dealers trying to find a balance between a personalized customer experience and coming on too strong?
Kevin LeSage: This is an interesting question, but the best way I would handle it is to just know your audience. Right, Jim? Some people are going to be very receptive, maybe the younger generation. I actually am the type of person that would look for a personalized experience across all of my shopping. I’m almost expecting-
Jim Fitzpatrick: So would I. I’m with you. I agree.
Kevin LeSage: But then again, there’s a different generation that might not want that personal data out there. They’re more hesitant. So for a car dealer today, it’s really knowing your audience and then segmenting them correctly and having a different strategy to go after that shopper based off of that segment.
Jim Fitzpatrick: And it can be generational, you know? I mean, my-
Kevin LeSage: Of course.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.
Kevin LeSage: Yep.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. It’s just one of those things, I mean, today’s millennial shopper out there might be more prone to say, “No, I want a complete personalized experience and I don’t mind giving up a little bit of data to get there.” Right?
Kevin LeSage: Exactly.
Jim Fitzpatrick: While our parents might be a little bit more standoffish and not be willing to give up anything.
Kevin LeSage: Yeah. And it’s going to be exciting moving forward in the next few years because I see a lot more advancements around personalization coming and the consumers are expecting it at this point, especially in automotive.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And when we talk about personalization, we often look at a company like Amazon, right? That knows what you purchased last go-around, what you might have a propensity to buy next go-around and really welcomes you back to the site, makes it very, very easy for you to buy things and have it shipped to you. And I think the car business is taking its cues from companies like Amazon in this area. Right?
Kevin LeSage: Yeah. We’re getting there. Yeah, exactly. I would say right now we’re still scratching the surface in terms of personalization and how we’re leveraging that technology as an industry.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.
Kevin LeSage: But in the very near future in things that we’re working on personally, I see that advancing very quickly.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Kevin LeSage, director of digital marketing at Autotrader. Thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. This has been very enlightening. And dealers out there, if you don’t have this area covered, you need to get it covered because the industry is changing. You need to be stepping up, right?
Kevin LeSage: Oh, 100% yeah. I mean, it’s changing at a rapid development right now, even internally here. The technology is hard to keep up with.
Jim Fitzpatrick: I know. It’s incredible. During this conversation it just changed four more times and…
Kevin LeSage: You never know.
Jim Fitzpatrick: All right, Kevin, thanks so much.
Kevin LeSage: Thanks Jim.
CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.