The age of data-driven advertising is upon us and if we have the right kind of data and interpret it properly, it can reveal subtle audience differences that can help all retailers, including auto marketers, rethink how they approach different potential buyers.
With autos, the most fundamental phases of the car-buying cycle can be broken into three broad buckets: research, intent and owner (who may become repeat buyers).
In recent research, we found that each of these audiences for, say Toyota, are very different with researchers skewing younger, intenders having the widest range of ages and owners tending to be older. Features like more horse power were of almost equal interest to researchers and intenders, but were of virtually no interest to older actual owners. Younger researchers were more inclined to say they wanted a car that "expresses my personality" than were intenders, and older owners rejected this notion by a wide margin. Similarly, car technology had appeal to researchers and intenders, but not owners.
The data shows that although researchers and intenders will appreciate the practicality of their Toyotas after they become owners, until then they want a car that expresses their personality, has extra horsepower and sports plenty of extra features. these elements should come through clearly in campaigns targeted to a younger “pre-purchase” audience.
Even after you segment by purchase intent, lumping the “Toyota audience” or “Honda audience” together is a mistake. The differences between someone interested in a Honda Fit versus a Honda Odyssey are vast. Segmenting by both make (Honda, Toyota) and class (hatchback, SUV) provides valuable insights for better segmentation, ad strategy and creative.
Our data showed how varied Honda Seekers are, depending on which class of car they are interested in. Based on the “Mini-Van” insights, Honda might tailor its Honda Odyssey ad campaigns towards Millennial moms, and depict them buckling in a female toddler in the back seat. Or they might pursue promotional partnerships with Cars.com or KBB, which Mini-Van seekers are more likely to visit than Hatchback or SUV audiences.
The reality is, your customers will not be deciding between two models of the same brand (for example, the Mazda CX-9 and the Mazda 3). Instead, they would weigh the Mazda 3 against a car of a similar class and price range, like the Chevy Cruze. Consumers seeking a Mazda 3 or a Chevy Cruze are behaviorally quite similar, but demographic and life stage data paint a picture of two distinctive audiences, which could be targeted with unique ad campaigns.
Bottom line: Segment your own audience by buying phase, car class and behavior.
Slice and dice your own audience in myriad ways in order to understand their attributes and path to purchase: researchers vs. intenders, sedan vs. SUV seekers — what makes each of these customers tick? Where do they research online? How can you, reach them earlier and speak to them better?