By Brian Epro, VP Automotive, Jornaya
My two teenage sons are now old enough where my wife and I can take vacations and leave them at home. For some reason, they always insist on knowing exactly when we will be home. Somehow, by telling them the day and time of our return, they make sure the house is even more spotless than how we left it. I don’t want to imagine what we’d walk into if they didn’t know when they’d see us again.
As my career in marketing technology has evolved I’ve come to realize the power of when. Traditionally, we’ve had data sources that tell us the who of our audiences and the what of their interests. However, if you pull the curtain back just a bit, you’ll see those sources tend to be less than reliable and mostly commoditized.
Frequently, the categories and segments for who are way too imprecise for the holy grail of effective 1:1 marketing. What is also a crapshoot. Why? Because when the who data is unreliable, the what data gets sunk, too. If your data falsely indicates a person has two elementary school aged children, you may think marketing a minivan to him would be a good idea. But, what if he is actually an empty nester and you should really be marketing a sports car to him?
Relying solely on who and what is a bad idea. The key element in marketing is when, especially now. Send the wrong message at the wrong time and your marketing efforts are useless. Worse, an ill-timed offer could mean losing that consumer.
We know that car shoppers are buried in messages and outreach. When they don’t need information but keep hearing from you, they’re going to tune you out. But when they are researching online to make the smartest purchase decision, that’s when they do need information. Reach them at that moment and your marketing works.
Your marketing evolves from getting your brand in front of the consumer to something that actually improves the consumers shopping experience. That’s the magical moment and it’s based on knowing when.
You don’t need me to tell you that timing is especially important now. We’re seeing that in the current COVID-19 environment; consumer journeys are less predictable. It’s important to understand where these shoppers are in their buying journey to send the right message at the right time.
Understanding the consumers’ level of intent at a given moment, and engaging with them accordingly will greatly impact your success. If they’re early in their auto purchase journey, the information they’re looking for is different from a consumer who is prepared to test drive.
The most efficient and effective way to do that is to leverage behavioral data. With the average car buying journey taking 3-4 months, think about what you could do if you knew one of your customers was shopping in the first week. Imagine being able to communicate with that consumer months before your competitors.
Using Behavioral Data
With the right data, you can identify shoppers early in their journey. There are three types of data that we’re dealing with here:
- First-party Data: Typically gathered through a lead form or cookie-based data, first-party data shows how an individual is interacting with your site. You can gather basic background on the individual through lead forms, including name and age. Cookie-based data allows you to track more specific activity, like what an individual was searching for on your site. Although first-party data can be very useful when creating a map of your consumer’s activity, it’s not granular enough due to the limited view it provides. You can see activity from your view, but are left in the dark once that individual leaves your site. Consequently, you don’t know what activity the consumer has conducted prior to visiting your site, nor do you know what they do upon exiting.
- Third-party Data: This is typically data that an aggregator purchases from other sources and sells as a package. Third-party data typically involves a lot of “secret sauce” that you’ll need to trust, and doesn’t provide the marketer with a lot of control in terms of understanding and manipulating the levels of data that are included in third party applications. At its best, third party data can provide a holistic view of your consumer’s shopping experience by showing you how a prospect is interacting with sites beyond your site. At worst, the data can be wrong, or too broad to be truly effective. We all know there is a wide gap between a data set helping you connect your prospects to your marketing and sales pipeline as compared to a generic black box of ‘auto shopping data’ that is not transparent and may originate from consumer shopping for auto parts or warranties.
- Second-party Data: This is the new kid in town, and may not be a term you are overly familiar with. What if you could work with an objective third-party company to seek out datasets you feel may be beneficial to your marketing efforts and then combine those datasets with your own in a mutually beneficial partnership? Second-party data is simply another organizations’ first-party data, made available for your use. This provides you with ultimate control of the data you are buying, and is also far more effective targeting. Imagine knowing when your customer is shopping on a relevant site but hasn’t been to your site? That’s the power of second-party data.
The best marketers are now upgrading their first- and third-party data partnerships to focus on when using authoritative and transparent sources. The very best marketers are starting to think beyond yesterday’s data strategy and are creating second-party data partnerships. The who and what are table stakes in 2020, but if you don’t know when a customer or prospect is shopping, as it’s happening outside of your digital and brick-and-mortar walls, then you’re due for an updated marketing strategy.
Knowing when someone is taking steps on their customer journey should be your priority for your marketing data—who and what comes after. As my two sons have come to understand, knowing when we’re coming home from vacation allows them to scrub down the house and remove any evidence of the party they didn’t have. And no, I’m not in-market for that minivan that keeps following me around the internet. Timing really is everything.
About the Author
Brian Epro is Vice President, Automotive at Jornaya. Brian has been in the automotive industry for more than 20 years working in business development and strategy for companies like DealerRater, AutoLoop, and IMN, Inc. He has an extensive background in digital marketing.