Michael Kraut, VP of OEM for Automotive at Experian chats about the role of advanced analytics in enabling better marketing journeys in this quick catch-up:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Michael, tell us more about your journey through and about your role at Experian.
I’ve been in the auto industry for more than 15 years, four of those with Experian. Currently, I’m the vice president of OEM for Experian’s automotive business, overseeing the strategic direction and revenue growth for our OEM channel. We help OEMs use data and analytics to interpret and respond to market changes along with the resulting impacts on consumer behaviors. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of changes recently making data more critical than ever to help OEMs navigate the market. One way we do this is by using our marketing database to help OEMs identify various customer preferences and lifestyles, enabling them to tailor their messaging to connect with consumers more meaningfully, using their preferred channels—which is foundational to effective marketing.
Prior to Experian, I was in a variety of leadership positions at Cars.com, primarily managing relationships with OEMs in North America. I watched our business grow from working with a few hundred dealers and a handful of automotive manufacturers, to over 17,000 dealers and every manufacturer selling cars in North America.
What are some of the trends that you feel today’s automotive marketers need to be looking at more?
One of the most notable trends is the deprecation of third-party cookies. This has led to a series of innovations, with new digital identifiers being developed regularly, each positioned as cookie alternatives. That’s in addition to the re-emergence of first-party identifiers. While it may seem overwhelming to have so many identifiers, ultimately, diversification is healthy. If we don’t embrace it, we’ll find ourselves in the same position a few years down the road.
Diversification does bring its own challenges, though, as all these new identifiers need to be reconciled. The industry needs to continue to move toward the interoperability of identifiers, which will ultimately help marketers be even more effective. It’s important to keep in mind that all these changes are driven by consumers’ desire to have more control and ownership of their data. By keeping consumers at the heart of every marketing strategy, OEMs will be able to build and maintain a positive relationship with them.
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Can you talk about some of the most innovative (global) marketing experiences you’ve seen in this sector in the recent few months?
One of the things I’ve seen is more widespread adoption of tools that empower a more diverse array of marketing approaches, encompassing multiple channels and touchpoints for consumers. For example, we’re seeing OEMs using data science more than ever in their marketing departments to truly maximize available data. There are so many sources of data available now, whether its first-party or third-party, and being able to bring all these pieces together through identity resolution is critical. It creates new opportunities for OEMs to scale their highly customized audiences in ways they haven’t been able to in the past; a huge opportunity when you’re working with campaigns the size of those created by these OEMs.
New technologies and advanced analytics have made things possible that just five years ago we would have thought were too ambitious. That’s why it’s so important for OEMs to have the right people and the right tools so they can stay on the cutting edge and adapt when the market shifts, like we’re seeing right now. The impact of the chip shortage on today’s market is unlike anything we’ve navigated in recent memory, but advanced data capabilities make adjusting to these shifts more attainable.
With the ongoing chip shortage, what can marketers in this niche do to turn a positive spin on things?
Because of the chip shortage, there is no longer any seasonality in automotive marketing, so marketers need to adjust their media plans accordingly. Historically, after the big game in February, you wouldn’t see much automotive marketing, as it would taper off in the summer until early fall when football came back—there was clear seasonality there.
While we know consumers are still buying vehicles, with longer lead times for new vehicles and higher used vehicle prices, the when and why consumers are in-market for a vehicle are evolving. As a result, media planning needs to be revamped, focusing on awareness at all times, not just during specific seasons.
Consistency will be key, but the most successful marketers will take it a step further and nuance messages based on the audience. Given the challenges around when consumers will enter the market, vehicle shoppers need to know what vehicle or service is relevant to them and why. By adjusting strategies to incorporate consistency and tailored messaging, OEM brands can stay top of mind, making consumers feel an already established relationship when they’re ready to buy.
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What are some of the digital marketing channels that you feel automotive marketers can benefit more from?
Linear TV has long been a staple of automotive marketing strategies, and for good reason, it’s a great way to build awareness. While linear TV will continue to be influential and must remain an important part of OEMs’ strategy, Connected TV (CTV) and Advanced TV (ATV) are quickly growing segments of overall advertising that present significant growth opportunity for automotive marketers. Case in point: CTV is expected to contribute to most of the growth in the TV sector over the next few years, according to eMarketer.
This means that any TV strategy needs to incorporate linear, digital and connected TV. While there has been some concern that leveraging CTV means reducing focus on linear, that’s not necessarily the case—there’s opportunity for both. Leveraging CTV, in addition to other TV strategies creates opportunities that aren’t available in linear form, like tailoring ads based on a consumer’s lifestyle and preferences. The reality is, there’s a significant cohort of car buyers who have already cut the cord, and they won’t see anything you put out on linear TV; but there is opportunity to reach them through CTV. It all comes back to knowing your audience, and then planning your TV strategy around where you audience wants to be reached, rather than the inverse. This may be a shift for some marketers, but it’s one that needs to be made. CTV is yet another layer that helps reach consumers where they are and deliver messages that resonate.
A few martech tools / features that automotive marketers need to have as part of their martech stack or marketing processes?
Thanks to advances in technology, marketers can now create more precise audience segments, in a privacy-compliant way. Focused audiences are going to continue to be important as new fuel types, such as electric vehicles (EVs), continue to gain momentum. Through advanced analytics, we can identify which consumers have the highest propensity to be interested in EVs or more fuel-efficient vehicles, among other preferences. We know with the numbers of EV models in the pipeline, there are going to be more choices than ever for consumers. The space will become very segmented, in terms of vehicle style and type, similar to the non-EV space. That’s why audiences built with advanced analytics are so important; these audiences help marketers ensure they are reaching maximum ROI with every message delivered.
As the automotive industry continues to evolve, audiences need to be continually refreshed, usually with a combination of first- and third-party data to ensure accuracy. As shopping patterns continue to shift, marketers need tools that focus on the recency of consumers, otherwise you’ll always be working with stale data. At the end of the day, up-to-date audiences are key to continuing to build authentic relationships with consumers.
Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital marketing or martech tips and best practices before we wrap up!
The marketing industry is dynamic, and the speed of change is increasing. We don’t need to look further than the deprecation of the third-party cookie for proof of that. Marketers, whether in the automotive industry or any other, need to constantly evolve strategies to ensure they’re as effective as possible. This can mean exploring completely new options, such as collaborations with other brands that have consumers with similar interests. Marketers need to think boldly and be innovative in their approaches as we continue to see the landscape evolve.
For the immediate future, marketers need to focus on their audiences as the first step to any marketing plan—even before you start media planning—to understand who their audiences are and where they want to be reached and let that dictate where you take a campaign. Additionally, don’t base any strategy on a single identifier, like a third-party cookie. Instead, marketers need to take a more robust, interoperable approach that leverages multiple identifiers, then ties them together through identity resolution. This is really the backbone of building out a robust, cohesive strategy that will help automotive marketers continue to be impactful through chip shortage, and beyond.
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