page contents Automotive Thought Leadership: Ralph Paglia: 2017 My title page contents

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

US Auto Sales Led By Trucks In 2017

Trucks Top US Auto Sales Charts At 2017 Year End


Trucks Top US Auto Sales Charts At 2017 Year End


Sales of sport utility vehicles were particularly strong this year, according to joint research by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
Total light-vehicle sales are expected to finish out 2017 at 17.2 million units, a decrease of 1.9% from 2016, according to joint research by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, with retail light-vehicle expected to finish the year just below 14 million units – down 1.1% from 2016.

Looking forward to 2018, the firms expects total light-vehicle sales forecast to top out under 17 million units, a decline of 1.2% from 2017, while the forecast for retail light-vehicles is 13.8 million units for 2018, a decline of 1.4% from this year.
The big surprise for 2017 turned out to be the strength of sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales, according to Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting.

“SUV demand has been robust and is expected to finish up 5% in 2017 from 2016 and a market share of 43% of total light-vehicle sales,” he said in a statement. “The SUV reign will continue for the foreseeable future [as] SUVs are expected to  account for 50% of new model activity in 2018, which will help push the share of total sales to 45% and continue the segment's volume growth, even as the total market is projected to contract further in 2018.”
He added that light truck models overall accounted for 68% of new-vehicle retail sales through Dec. 17 – the highest level ever for the month of December, making it the 18th consecutive month above 60%.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Ancira Auto Group Social Marketing Customer Concern Resolution Creates Influencer Raving Fan

Ancira Auto Group Social Marketing Customer Concern Resolution Creates Influencer Raving Fan

April Ancira describes how she discovered an unhappy customer using social media, contacted that customer, resolved his issues and then she learned he was the Director of Operations at San Antonio's Seaworld. This led to promotional tie-ins between the Ancira Group and Seaworld, plus multiple new and used car sales to Seaworld employees. 

Find more videos like this on Automotive Digital Marketing

Friday, December 22, 2017

How Technology is Changing Our Approach to the DUI Problem

How Technology is Changing Our Approach to the DUI Problem


How Technology is Changing Our Approach to the DUI Problem

In a longstanding tradition, if a police officer suspects a driver of DUI, a field sobriety test will be performed. In such a test, the driver might be asked to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg, or touch finger to nose. Failure at these simple tasks of coordination will lead to a driver breathalyzer test, and failing that test means a DUI charge and a trip to the station followed by rehab.

Technological progress, however, is adding new tools to law enforcement's ability to detect whether a driver is under the influence... 

Stand-Off Detection Methods 

combination flashlight/alcohol detector has been around for years. It uses an electrochemical fuel cell sensor to detect the presence of alcohol vapor. The police officer places the flashlight up to the driver's window and presses a button, and the device not only reports whether alcohol is present within the interior of the vehicle but gives a reading that can be correlated with DUI arrest levels. It doesn't say whether the driver or a passenger has been drinking or someone else has, but it does allow reasonable suspicion for a field sobriety or breathalyzer test.

The technology to use light to detect alcohol vapor is just getting started. Research in optoelectronic remote-sensing technology is being done to enable roadside monitors to detect the presence of alcohol vapor inside moving vehicles. This would constitute reasonable suspicion for the police to stop the car and administer a more definitive test for sobriety.

Someday such scanning technology may become common along roadsides. DUI evaders will likely attempt to thwart detection by tinting their automobile windows or keeping them rolled down, but that will raise red flags too. 

Intercepting at Ignition

Waiting outside a bar or restaurant to make an arrest at the instant the key goes into the ignition will become easier with police departments using computers to correlate blood alcohol content data gathered from DUI stops with days and times. Police officers already know where the problem areas are, but crunching the data will allow refinement.

Such a system stops well short of 'pre-crime' abuse, but there is concern that by encouraging police departments to concentrate resources in a given area, the data will become self-fulfilling prophecy, as more arrests lead to even further concentration at the expense of other areas that won't be a problem because there are no resources there to make DUI stops. 

Detecting Marijuana Still a Problem

While methods to detect drunkeness are improving, progress still lags in detecting whether a driver is high. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, becomes absorbed in body fat and registers high levels in testing even weeks after smoking. Moreover, blood samples have to be sent to a lab and the wait for results can itself take weeks.

Thus the race is on to develop a 'breathalyzer for marijuana.' Venture capital is being raised, and a start-up hopes to have a product on the market within a year. 

Prevention Technology

Super Bowl partygoers may have been surprised in 2017 when their bag of chips warned them that they may have been drinking too much and offered a QR code to call Uber. The breathalyzer-in-bag technology was introduced as part of the Super Bowl marketing buildup and isn't affordable enough to be practical yet. 

According to Casa Nuevo Vida, keeping sober living resolutions is easier than it used to be. Nonetheless, it points to the day when a drinker hears a disembodied voice telling him maybe he's had enough, and it really will be the bottle that's talking. What next? Perhaps a hologram of a dancing pink elephant to provide a distraction while a tiny robot arm hides the car keys.

Monday, December 11, 2017

LIDAR Enables Autonomous Vehicles to Exist

About LIDAR and How It Enables Autonomous Vehicles to Exist

Why did LIDAR take off with self-driving cars? In a word: mapping. LIDAR allows you to generate huge 3D maps (its original application!), which you can then navigate the car or robot predictably within. By using a LIDAR to map and navigate an environment, you can know ahead of time the bounds of a lane, or that there is a stop sign or traffic light 500m ahead. This kind of predictability is exactly what a technology like self-driving cars requires, and has been a big reason for the progress over the last 5 years.

Object Detection

As LIDARs have become higher-resolution and operate at longer ranges, a new use-case has emerged in object detection and tracking. Not only can a LIDAR map enable you to know precisely where you are in the world and help you navigate it, but it can also detect and track obstacles like cars, pedestrians and according to Waymo, football helmets.
Modern LIDAR enables you to differentiate between a person on a bike or a person walking, and even at what speed and which direction they are going in.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Market Research as a Wickedly Successful Biz Dev Tool: 6 Steps to Reach the Decision Maker

Market Research

Market Research as a Wickedly Successful Biz Dev Tool: 6 Steps to Reach the Decision Maker

Kevin Root writes: "This approach has been refined and validated in over 20 years of practice. It’s not theory and has been utilized successfully to win business with several of the industry’s largest firms."

"Background – In winning new clients, one of the biggest challenges is often getting to the senior decision makers. They typically rely on organization structure and gate-keepers to filter out those charged with winning new business."

"The following is a technique that is designed to engage the senior decision makers, as well as  their trusted associates. The secret? Bring something of value to them—and do so in a unique way. Here is a step by step way how to do it."


Monday, November 27, 2017

Influencer Marketing for Car Dealers is About Data and Not Celebrity Deals!

Influencer Marketing Is About Data and Not Celebrity Deals

Friday, October 20, 2017

Advertising Creativity for Car Dealers

Where is Creative Advertising for Car Dealers in Today's Market?

Creativity in Car Dealer Advertising for Today's Market

Creativity is the once and future foundation of effective dealership advertising...
But what effective creativity means in 21st-century dealership advertising is something very different than it was in the second half of the 20th century. It must be elevated above simple advertising to the place where it influences everything you do while leaving long lasting perceptions with a dealership's targeted customer segment.

Avi Dan, a successful brand manager for many iconic brands and now a consultant, says we’re living in a “post-advertising age.” He’s right, in many ways. To be successful in this day and age, the most effective automotive advertising professionals are immersing themselves in the new reality and embracing it wholeheartedly. That’s the foundation. From there, they are creating an entirely new game plan for their dealership's future. This requires the hard work of thinking and planning. Most won’t do it, so that opens the door for you.
Infusionsoft CEO Clate Mask says, “When you take the time to define where you’re going, you can develop a plan, stay on course, make adjustments as needed and reach your destination.”
That’s where the hard work and thinking come in. From there, the proven cycle of plan, do, check, and adjust can take you beyond your past hopes of being a great car dealer ad creator to striving to become the creator of great dealership brands and business models.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves by casting a little vision at the start. Let’s get to the heart of the revolution that is turning automotive advertising into science and how creativity will come to rule the day once again... Trust me on this; CREATIVITY IS KING!
Creative business idea

Advertising Has Become Science

Data, lots of data, big data—small data, data points, data this and data that is what drives advertising today, and its influence will only grow.
Alexandra Levit claims, “As fast as technological innovation has multiplied and spread in recent years, it is poised to change and grow at an exponential speed beyond the power of human intuition to anticipate.”

A wealth of information is being gathered about consumers’ demographics, online browsing and shopping habits, preferred social media and even their favorite colors.
Clark Howard says, “Tech giants like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Google can all track users across devices. [Currently] 6 percent of all marketers can reliably track consumers across device, according to the research firm eMarketer. But more will get that capability as technology advances. Smartphones are a gold mine for people looking to track you, dissect who are and sell to you.”
Is it starting to feel like former Fox Business News contributor Charles Payne might have been right when he said:
"At one point, Amazon will send things to your house that you didn't order, but when you get it, you'll keep it because they knew you wanted it"?
Even if we’re not there yet, the forces that could make that a reality is now leading the industry.

Advertising has become ever more targeted, aggressive and pervasive despite the recently acquired ability of consumers to turn it off. In fact, since consumers do have tools like AdBlock Plus, Privacy Badger, and Disconnect to prevent tracking your online activities, marketers attempt to throw as many ads as possible at you across as many channels as they can in hopes that a few will get through.
Websites that rely on ad revenue are refusing to show content to users that won’t whitelist their sites. In Forbes, one of the “whitelist us or else” sites, Ad agency McKee Wallwork + Company partner Jonathan David Lewis recently summed it up aptly when he stated:
“The modern consumer is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of media noise while simultaneously more empowered than ever to tune it out. But instead of seeking new relevance, the advertising industry has responded by trying to get better at spamming consumers.”

That’s what advertising has become in an age of 300 TV channels and innumerable other ways to reach consumers. Track a consumer to find out what they’re looking at, then get an ad in front of them precisely customized to their metrics, and do it at a ridiculously low cost. Lewis explains the demand to cover all advertising channels with content made “faster and cheaper” and uses Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line in automobile manufacturing for his analogy:
“The only way to make a lot of content both faster and cheaper is to be extremely efficient. Thus, creative quality goes down and quantity goes up. Add in growing access to ‘good enough’ freelance communities, dashboard design tools like Squarespace, and the coming artificial intelligence revolution, and you have the dawn of assembly line advertising,” --Jonathan David Lewis says.
A great line from “The Hucksters” a 1947 classic film about advertising suggested the best way to sell a product was to “irritate, irritate, irritate,” until consumers were psychologically cowed into buying the product.

The strategy used to sell Ivory soap on soap operas and through print ads 70 years ago now haunts display ad funded web sites and social media pages where ads appear for products we were just looking at somewhere else. There’s no use decrying this reality, nor, perhaps should it be knocked.
Regardless, it is the current state of affairs for automotive advertising. Google AdWords and Facebook Ads Manager are the tools of the trade that dealership employees can use on a direct basis, which are threatening the value propositions and business models of traditional ad agencies. Automotive Advertising Metrics such as impressions, click-through rate, cost-per-action rate, form completion rate, time spent viewing, and effective cost per mille are driving dealership marketing strategies.


"What I have observed over the past twenty years is that along with this addiction to marketing data and digital advertising metrics comes the demise of traditional car dealer creativity..."--Ralph Paglia

Automotive advertising professionals must understand what being creative truly means to the car business in order to thrive in this new reality.

What Creativity Meant to Car Dealers

The late Bill Bernbach, one of the founders of Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), was an advertising maverick and is now a legendary figure in the industry. His ads for Volkswagen’s introduction into the American market, Alka-Seltzer, and Ohrbach’s thrift department store brought huge results for the clients because they told compelling stories readers and viewers could relate to. He was a master when creativity in advertising meant what it used to mean. Bernbach famously told his team and anyone who would listen:

“I warn you against believing advertising is a science.”

This was long before the age of big data and performance metrics, but it is na├»ve to think ad execs weren’t busy crunching any numbers they could get their hands on about readership and viewership in determining advertising and marketing strategy. Bernbach saw the potential for the "scientification" of advertising in his day, and his foundational message that advertising demands artful creativity is being lost in the takeover by data analytics as basis for determining advertising strategy. Seth Godin’s oft-quoted line comes to mind. He said:
“People do not buy goods and services...
They buy relations, stories, and magic.”
The auto industry once balanced the magic of creative advertising with the logic of successful marketing strategy. The magic is shrinking, lost in the push for “faster and cheaper.
But, creativity is an asset that will never lose its power. Lewis calls creativity one of the: “preeminent competitive advantages in business.”
The creative among car dealers will reach the front of the pack when the creativity is properly channeled. Being effectively creative in the 21st century means putting those talents to work on the logic side of the equation.

Creativity’s New Role and How To Use It:
Creativity is a powerful asset. That’s worth repeating, creativity is a powerful asset and its truth must be embraced. But here is the difference for successful automotive advertising companies and dealership marketing professionals:

The most effective use of creativity today isn’t in content development with its “faster, cheaper” mantra. It is in elevating creativity to allow it to influence our entire approach to dealership advertising including the automotive business opportunities car dealers pursue.  

Show below are four principles for automotive advertising success in the “post-advertising world” in which consumers are difficult to reach and non-traditional solutions are making business innovators out of traditional dealership advertisers.

Find the Niche... Then Meet the Need

Automotive business development has usually been about finding or creating a need and filling it. Now, ad agencies are structuring their entire business plan around the oldest marketing principle there is. For example:
  • McKee, Wallwork + Company is having success focusing its efforts on turning around brands that are “stalled, stuck and stale” without trying to be all things to all potential clients.
  • Broadhead is filling a niche by providing sound marketing and advertising strategies to rurally focused companies in agriculture, fertilizer, and farm veterinary service niches.
  • Immersion Active boasts its track record of reaching the 50+ boomer and elderly market while Fuse Marketing is a leader in marketing to youth and the millennial generation.
The term "unique selling proposition" is defined as:
“One that highlights the benefits which make [the cars you offer] better than, or at least effectively different to, its competitors.”
What's your dealership's Unique Value Proposition? How will you bring that to bear in an advertising world where every dealership marketing services provider defines itself as “outside the box, thought leaders, disruptive” and other hackneyed terms? Remember what Clate Mask says about taking the time to define where you are going and developing a plan to get there. Like one great ad campaign preached, “Just Do It.”

Find a Problem... Then Solve It

Henry Ford wasn’t the first automobile manufacturer, but he was the first to find a way to solve the cost problem. His assembly line allowed Ford to make cars faster and cheaper, so most working families could afford one. Victor & Spoils solved the “faster, cheaper” demand in the advertising world by becoming the first agency to completely crowd-source their creative. It started when the company posted a brief to its crowd of 7,200 creative types and used the input to win the Harley Davidson account.

Do Not Forget.. The Goal is to Sell Cars

Advertising exists to produce sales results. Traditionally, this meant helping a car dealer sell more cars. Now it can mean helping car dealers develop their own products. Advertising pros are full of creative ideas that make others’ millions of dollars. Why not help car dealers make their own cash cows?
pile of cash.gif
Ad Agency "Anomaly" created "Eos" brand lip balm and pushed the brand to be the No. 1 selling lip balm in the U.S. in 2013, beating out market leader ChapStick... While simultaneously co-creating and financially backing a cooking show on PBS called "Avec Eric" with chef Eric Ripert of the famous four-star Le Bernardin restaurant.

New York-based agency Droga5 launched a software development studio DE-DE, and its first product, Thunderclap, took home a Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Montreal’s Sid Lee agency launched an architectural firm after being the go-to agency for others and just announced its Insoapropriate “line of inappropriate soap” products like Stellar Vision glycerin soap globes and Crystalline Hearing cone-shaped soaps.

Think Less About Cars... Think More About Problems

We’ll assume you’re completely familiar with your dealership's products. Are you also familiar with their owner's problems? What internal problems do car dealers face in advertising design and development? Can you help them find a solution? If you do, it will likely be transferable to other industries, and you will have hit on something uniquely beneficial and profitable. In this way, you’ll be less focused on selling what a dealership has and more focused on helping dealers produce something better.

Opportunity Knocks

We’re seeing the dawn of the post-advertising age where traditional ad agencies lose relevancy faster than travel agencies did a decade ago. It’s time to broaden your vision to see the automotive business possibilities from idea to development to marketing and sales, whether you’re assisting car dealers with the process or developing your own. It’s the new and better path to producing what people want and need.

This post is based on an edited and revised version of an article written by: Philip Piletic, whose primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. He is an editor, writer, marketing consultant, and guest author at several authority websites. 


We see new model launches every year, but how many ad campaigns have you seen for a model that is being discontinued? Here is one from Volkswagen:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seven Critical Components Essential to Car Dealership Digital Marketing Strategy

Seven Critical Components Essential to Car Dealership Digital Marketing Strategy

Essential Components For Car Dealer Digital Marketing Strategy

  • 7 Key Protocols Digital Marketing Empowered Dealers Follow For Success
  • Digital marketing is the present and future of the Auto Industry!

Car Dealers have begun to embrace digital marketing, and separating themselves and their budgets from the traditional marketing methods, simply because automotive digital marketing works better and more effectively. Dealers must clarify the basics of digital marketing and then devise a marketing strategy that aligns with their business needs. It can be as simple as pitching your vehicles/services to a mass of people likely to buy a car or truck. But make sure you do it in a decent and subtle way, as today's online car shoppers are not a huge fan of in-your-face interruption marketing tactics.

Digital marketing is not only confined to selling vehicles/services. There are many aspects to digital marketing and there are certain factors that impact a dealership that has a presence in the digital marketing world.

Here are seven tips for car dealers which automotive marketers should keep in mind:

1. Mobile friendly website

Mobile search has surpassed desktop search in the recent years!
Most of the car shoppers in today’s era prefer surfing a website on a mobile device which is easier to access than a desktop for the simple reason that it is always in their hands. This creates the need for dealership websites that look and work well on a variety of mobile devices. Thus a mobile friendly website is necessary for car dealers who wish to have a strong online presence. Check often to ensure that all your web pages appear appropriately in their mobile device view, if not, you need to fix it!

Ensure that all the social media handles are clearly visible on your website as well; users would explore your social media profiles as part of their primary research on your dealership.

2. Website Speed Test

Your website is now a reflection of your business in the online world!
Your dealership's website showcases your business and the services that you offer to your customers. It is important that you focus on improving the loading speed of your website. The faster the website opens up, the more ease your customers are at. A few seconds is all one needs to give up on your site and move to the next one.

Car shoppers don’t like to wait for your website to load, so make sure that the images that you upload aren’t too heavy to keep your users waiting. Try and use images that are of low kb size and make sure the code on your website is not too heavy. Check your website’s speed on google’s speed test tool to see where you need to optimize your site for improved load times.

3. SEO friendly website

Those of you, who think that SEO is dead, wake up!

SEO still counts and matters to the dealerships in the digital marketing world. To enjoy higher SERP rankings for your website, you have to make your website rank higher on Google, which can be done through various methods like link building etc. All in all SEO helps your business flourish online by making it technically correct. A detailed know-how about SEO tips and tricks will help you get higher ranks on search engines, thus making your business flourish online.

4. Social Media Profiles

According to market research, automotive consumers thoroughly check a dealer's website when they are considering buying a vehicle or getting service there.

A social media profile is one of the main ways through which a customer can learn about your dealership. Therefore it becomes important that you have a social media profile on the social media platforms where you think your targeted audience may be hanging out!

You need a social media profile that is both attractive and well optimized. Also, don’t forget to link your social media profiles to your business website.

Social media marketing is the best and easiest way you can spread a word about your dealership in one go, use it smartly!

5. Content

Want to share quality content? Keep it fresh and to the point!

What could work better than a lot of online marketing tactics, is when you can post content on your website, submit it to bloggers for guest posting. The ways by which you want to spread out your content are innumerable. Just make sure the content is authentic and is your own and rich in quality. You can also curate quality content provided it is credited to the original source.

Social media is the best opportunity to grab for making your content go viral and let the world know about your business.

6. Graphics

Dealership websites with online presence must make sure images used do not look dull.
Use enticing graphics and images that co-relate with the content and your website. Readers are more attracted to graphics rather than content so if you can add graphics to explain things better, then that’s great! Think about the tone and imagery of your graphics too, make sure they are consistent with your brand image.

7. Website Audit

Once you have portrayed your dealership in the digital marketing world, it becomes important that you check how well your site is performing in the online shopping world.
On a regular basis you should go for a website audit, this gives you a free analysis of your website and covers every aspect of it.

Today, many dealerships use online analytical tools available to check every domain of your website. This is a reflection of your website in the online marketing world. Test the new strategies and methods that you have implemented to check whether it is bringing you results or not. If the strategy is working, then boost up your efforts to get more results and if not, you need to think about what’s going wrong and how you can fix it to align with your dealership's business strategy.

Digital marketing companies understand the potential of marketing online and are trying to make the best of it. Marketing companies in the digital world have an in depth knowledge about how to initiate a marketing campaign in the online world. For that you need to be well versed with digital marketing basics. Willing to initiate digital marketing in your business? Reach out to our experts for help!

Edited and re-posted from an
article written by Anuja Lath Co-Founder COO RedAlkemi,
Founder-CEO OnPowerWeb


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mobile Might Not Be Where Most Car Buyers Are At

Mobile may be capturing the majority of digital media time and online ad spending, but when it comes to automotive sales, desktops should certainly not be forgotten, according to a study from DialogTech.

In fact, mobile devices are responsible for only a minority (45.2%) of call conversions from manufacturer and local dealership websites. In other words, people shopping for vehicles on desktops generate the majority (54.8%) of calls, according to the analysis of more than 1.1 million phone calls.

Data provided by comScore confirms that desktops still hold prominence in the auto industry: while mobile accounted for two-thirds (68%) of total digital media minutes in July, the opposite is true in the automotive industry, with desktops dominating that category’s time (68% share). In fact, 83% of time spent with the Auto Manufacturers subcategory is spent on desktops rather than mobile devices.
FACT: Car Shoppers who call a dealership by phone are TEN TIMES MORE LIKELY to buy a car from that dealership than car shoppers submitting.

The DialogTech research indicates that the discrepancy between desktop and mobile conversions for the automotive industry is even greater during the industry’s two main peak seasons: March to May, and September to November. In March, 22.2% more calls to dealerships originate from desktop/laptop users than mobile, and 27.3% more in April and May. During the second peak period, 22.2% more calls come from desktop/laptop shoppers than mobile in September and October, and an astonishing 56.4% more in November.

An even more predictable pattern emerges during the days of the week. Weekend shoppers who browse on mobile make nearly 20% more calls to dealerships, with the greatest number of conversions taking place on Sundays, while on weekdays desktop shoppers consistently account for in excess of 10% more calls than mobile shoppers.

Drilling down even further, calls made to dealerships are more likely to come from mobile shoppers before 8 A.M. and after 4 P.M., while consumers on desktops are more likely to call dealerships during typical working hours.

About the Data: The report is based on an analysis of DialogTech voice management platform data from more than 1.1 million phone calls generated by visitors to automotive websites (both Tier 1 and Tier 3) to thousands of North American dealerships.

What Drives the Most Phone Calls to Automotive Dealerships: Desktop or Mobile?   by Blair Symes)

In the past two years the automotive industry has experienced a pronounced and well-publicized shift from desktop to mobile shopping.
Studies show that most shoppers run searches for vehicles and visit automotive websites on their mobile devices. Automotive manufacturers and dealers have responded by shifting the majority of their digital ad spend from targeting desktops and laptops to targeting mobile devices, especially smartphones.
It makes sense: if most people shop for vehicles on their smartphones, then automotive marketers should want most of their digital ads in general — and search ads in particular — to appear on smartphones.
But just because most activity and ad spend occur on one device, does that mean that most phone calls to dealerships — often the most valuable conversion generated by automotive websites — follow that same logic? And how does that answer impact how automotive marketers should approach digital advertising?

Those are the questions that DT University sought to answer in this study. We examined phone call data from the DialogTech voice management platform, which tracks, routes, and manages millions of calls each year generated by visitors to the websites of the world’s biggest automakers and dealerships.

The answers may surprise you...

First, Some Background Data on Automotive Marketing and Mobile

If you follow the automotive industry, the headlines are hard to miss: automotive advertising has gone both digital and mobile.
According to eMarketer, digital advertising made up 56% of all media ad spend for automotive manufacturers (Tier 1) and 66% of all media ad spend for dealers (Tier 3) in the US in 2015. That year the automotive industry in the US spent over $7.4 billion on digital advertising, a number that is expected to nearly double to $14.1 billion in 2020.

(Image Source: eMarketer)

Of that $7.4 billion spent by the US automotive industry on digital advertising in 2015, 53% targeted shoppers on desktops and laptops. But 2015 would be the last year desktop would be king. In 2016, the US auto sector officially went mobile, spending 60% ($5.25 billion) of total digital ad spend to target shoppers on smartphones and tablets.

(Image Source: eMarketer)

The shift in ad spend from desktop to mobile seems to make sense. Studies show that 71% of people use mobile in the automotive purchase process, and 62% of all automotive searches occur on a mobile device. If people shop for vehicles on mobile, why shouldn’t marketers move their ad spend to target them in order to optimize ROI and customer acquisition?
To answer that, it helps to first understand why phone calls generated by digital advertising and automotive websites are such important marketing conversions.

Why Are Phone Calls Important in Automotive Marketing?

One would think that in today’s digital world, phone calls to dealerships would have taken a backseat in both volume and value to online conversions (web form fills, website chat, and emails). But that’s not the case.
According to Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, 25% of car buyers first contact dealerships by calling. Calls are the second most popular way shoppers contact a dealer before visiting, second only to unannounced walk-ins. In fact, phone calls surpass the combined total of all other conversions methods (email, chat, text, and social media).

(Image Source: Autotrader/Kelley Blue Book)

So why are people still calling dealerships when researching online?

The conventional explanation for this is the smartphone: people who engage with digital ads and visit websites on their smartphones contact businesses by calling. Calling is the easiest conversion path for smartphone users — it’s far more efficient than trying to fill out a form on your tiny smartphone screen and wait for hours or days for the dealership to call or email you back. So it stands to reason that smartphone shoppers want to call.

A study by Google supports this idea. It found that 39% of consumers who used their smartphones in the vehicle shopping process called a dealer.
When DT University analyzed the outcomes of millions of phone calls to car dealerships from automotive website visitors captured by the DialogTech voice management platform, they found that callers purchased a vehicle 10 times more frequently than people who filled out an online web form.
Excluding walk-ins, calls are the most valuable conversion generated by automotive digital marketing, contributing to the most vehicle sales and revenue. Therefore, driving phone calls is an important part of any successful automotive digital marketing campaign.
But just because people call when shopping for vehicles on their smartphones, does that mean they don’t also call when shopping on their desktops and laptops? And which device drives the most calls?


People Shopping for Vehicles on Desktops Call the Most

To answer, DT University examined data from the DialogTech voice management platform on over 1.1 million phone calls generated by visitors to automotive websites (both Tier 1 and Tier 3) to thousands of North American dealerships. What we found was a powerful rebuttal to the popular idea that desktop is dead and automotive marketers must focus their efforts and ad spend on mobile shoppers. The data showed that:
  • 54.8% of call conversions from Tier 1 and Tier 3 automotive websites were from shoppers on their desktops and laptops.

  • Contrary to popular belief, only 45.2% of calls come from visitors on mobile devices.
Broken out further, DT University found that 55.7% of calls from Tier 1 (manufacturer/OEM) websites and 53.1% of calls from Tier 3 (local dealership) websites come from desktops/laptop visitors.
The gap between desktop and mobile calls is even more pronounced during the automotive industry’s two peak sales seasons from March to May and from September to November.
This data should be an eye-opener for auto manufacturers and dealerships. When you ramp up digital ad spend during peak seasons to drive sales, don’t forget about targeting desktop shoppers: they drive the most calls and revenue:
First Peak Sales Season
  • March: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • April: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • May: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
Second Peak Sales Season
  • September: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • October: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • November: 56.4% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
When the data was examined based on the day of the week when shoppers call dealerships, some interesting trends appear. While mobile shoppers do generate more calls on the weekends, desktop/laptop shoppers drive far more calls during the week.

This insight into caller activity is valuable for automotive digital marketers running paid search campaigns, for example. Knowing which devices drive the most calls on each day can help you adjust ad spend to get the right ads in front of audiences most likely to call, thereby increasing your ROI.
A similar look at calls by time of day found that most calls during the traditional workday are from desktop shoppers, suggesting that people are shopping for cars at work on their desktops/laptops and calling dealers to ask questions and schedule test drives.

Again, good insight to know to optimize digital ad targeting to get the most bang for your buck.

This data from DT University helps provide some much-needed color and nuance to the “best practice” that automotive marketers should focus heavily on mobile, especially if they want to generate more calls to dealerships.

Phone calls to dealerships are huge revenue drivers in the automotive industry...

And yes, people shopping for vehicles on their smartphones call dealerships. But saying that smartphones are the reason why people are calling is too simplistic — people call when shopping on all devices, and they actually call most when shopping on desktops/laptops.

Pouring all your digital ad budget into campaigns that target mobile devices while ignoring desktop shoppers isn’t the best strategy to drive ROI, especially during peak sales seasons. Instead, learn from the data on when to target shoppers on which device, and you should see a nice increase in both callers and sales driven by your digital marketing.
If you want to learn more about measuring and optimizing phone calls from digital marketing, download DialogTech's free guide, The Digital Marketer’s Guide to Call Attribution.