Where does Inventory Display Advertising fit in long term?

POSTED BY Ian Cruickshank

It’s always a challenge to change people’s perceptions when they are sure they know exactly what you do based on a single definition or experience. Let’s say, for example, that your only experience with a cheeseburger is McDonald’s and you go to a gourmet restaurant and order one. If the server starts to ask what extras you want on your burger wouldn’t you say, “It’s a cheeseburger. Aren’t they all just the same?”

In the same vein, what if I told you that not all display-based technology is the same? I’m sure that would spark a fairly spirited discussion about what exactly display technology is and how it can help. In tier 3 Auto, only ~50% of dealers are using display ads.

When is display more than just display?

Take a look at your advertising mix and you will find a few constants. Dealerships have been running radio ads since before you could drive. Print and TV, these are normal standbys along with display ads because they’re usually sold as a package. This is the “McDonald's cheeseburger” of display ads. They typically showcase events and they are what the industry knows display to be. In fact, when you buy TV or Radio - Display often become “the Fries with that!”

There are other cheeseburgers out there and inventory display advertising is the top shelf Cheeseburger. (Click if this is before lunch) .

Like normal display advertising, inventory display is always there, always reminding the consumers about your dealership. However, unlike typical display, inventory display ads go beyond simply promoting events and offers. They are dynamically generated to feature live inventory from your lot. Additionally, advanced inventory display ads will programmatically learn from the consumer’s online behavior and automatically adjust the ad to better fit their preferences.

As marketers and salespeople, we are always looking for tools to help us automate the process of finding qualified buyers. Inventory display is automating inventory promotion by taking all of your inventory, finding the customers and showing your vehicles to the most appropriate people without you having to lift a finger in the process.  

It’s a long-term tool that just keeps working to find the buyers you want. Unlike typical banner ads, this advertising is not tied to a single campaign, but to your actual inventory. As long as you have cars on your lot, inventory display advertising (IDA) has work to do and consumers to find. When your buyer is ready to make their purchase they know you’re the dealership to go to.

The problem with switching off for a few months

In the marketing and advertising world, we often  hear, “It’s a quiet time of year, I want to save some money until sales pick up.” Now, there are some obvious problems with this statement, much like the chicken and the egg. But, we always explain that this is just as counterintuitive as sending your sales team home for the same reason.

What the vast majority of automotive retailers don’t realize is that the inventory advertisements the consumer sees are literally the tip of the iceberg. The amount of machine learning that comes from delivering that advertising can’t be overstated. Online, every click and query is recorded and cataloged. These behaviors follow your potential buyers through their browsing and research over time, let’s assume 60 days. So what good Data Management Platforms are doing is learning about users, what they like and don’t like. This is machine learning. When all of the views and clicks come together the ad engine knows one buyer is  interested in a 2015 Audi Q5 Technik in black and another buyer is decided on the BMW 4 Series Cabriolet . Don’t view these ads only as advertisements for Toyota Camrys available at your local dealership today, instead, see them as little intelligence gathering tools for the cars you’ll sell next week and next month.

When I hear that a dealership wants to turn off their inventory ads for a short time, I caution them that this is like turning a deaf ear to your buyer’s needs and wants. You are halting that learning engine, that information gathering and relationship building tool that is inventory display advertising. I explain this and advise a simple solution, "Don’t turn it off entirely, if you must, reduce your spend. This way your 'virtual team' is able to still gather information, it’s only been reduced to part-time hours."

So much of the marketing world is turning to automation. Inventory display is automating the process of learning what the customer wants, finding where it is available and delivering that to the buyer on any device; mobile or wired.

Match.com for car buyers?

When someone asks for a quick overview of inventory display I tell them it’s not unlike Match or eHarmony for car buyers. Inventory display advertising (simply put) learns a buyer’s likes and dislikes in order to present them with the best matches in their vehicle research, some left or right swipes may still be required.

One of my team members brought up that this was not unlike an automated, needs analysis tool for the dealership. Similar to the questions a sales associate will ask you when you’re on site at the dealership, inventory display technology is learning through your research, clicks and consumer’s path-to-purchase while researching their next vehicle purchase.

The long-term workhorse

So where does inventory display advertising fit into your long term advertising plans? First, it isn’t the only solution, but it is part of the toolset that will get the right car in front of the right buyer at just the right time to increase your sales. Inventory display technology is always on and always learning about your ideal buyers, it doesn’t need a break, it won’t take a vacation and it is everywhere your buyers are 24/7. Lastly, it’s the best matchmaker out there, it listens and learns what your buyers want and makes sure that as long as you have it or something similar in stock, your buyers will know the car is available.

Inventory display advertising may use images to display your inventory, but don’t call it display. It is so much more than a McDonald’s Cheeseburger.

 

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