Automotive must prepare for an AI-driven marketing future


Mark Bainbridge Says AI-Powered Digital Campaign Platforms Will Be Game-Changing For Auto Manufacturer Advertising

The pandemic has crippled the whole world. For the auto industry, that meant manufacturing and sales stagnated as roads came to a halt in lockdowns around the world. The showrooms were suddenly closed and very few customers left in a new vehicle. In the UK, only around 4,000 new registrations were made in April 2020 – a post-war low.

It was an inflection point for the industry. Many motorists still needed new vehicles as they were becoming the safest form of transportation, but how could they research and buy one with road tests and face-to-face advice largely impossible?

Even before COVID-19 hit, auto marketing and sales were at a crossroads. As other industries fully embraced e-commerce and digital customer journeys, brands and dealerships were starting to catch up as consumers chose these new channels to locate their next car. In terms of marketing strategies, what will now be the key to commercial success?

The big shift towards digital

The answer lies in digital strategy and, more specifically, artificial intelligence (AI). Most automakers and their networks now know that if they haven’t already created the right online engagement, they need it fast to avoid being burned by their competition.

Showrooms may be the place of chrome dreams again, but many motorists have grown accustomed to finding and purchasing their next ride online.

It’s fair to say that when brands and dealerships go digital, there isn’t always a comprehensive, cohesive strategy. Instead, plenty of moving parts mean that it’s not easy to find the right rating for engaging consumers or, indeed, measuring the effectiveness of a campaign. But that is all about to change thanks to digital campaign platforms that feed on AI to engage the motorist at the right time, on the right channel and when they are ready to consider a new vehicle.

Take the example of programmatic advertising. This aspect of online marketing is used to display relevant advertisements to target consumers as they browse the web. It’s an obvious option for large-scale campaigns to gather responses and generate leads online, but its effectiveness and efficiency are often questioned.[1].

It is also quite rigid. For example, if a brand wanted to experiment with colors, layouts, and campaign messages to optimize designs and avoid consumer weariness, that would be a difficult task with a “traditional” programmatic. This is why new data-driven solutions for online marketing could be a game-changer.

Cadillac Showcased Cloud-Based Concept For Automotive Marketing At CES 2020

Capturing consumers’ attention with AI

Often times the hardest part of a creative strategy, no matter how ingenious the team working on it or the industry in question, is taking an objective approach to finding what works. With an AI-powered campaign strategy, brands and their marketing providers can quickly establish optimal colors and layout to boost campaign visibility and capture audience attention. That’s not all AI can do. Other aspects of campaign creation and deployment are improved, including:

An objective vision – AI removes subjectivity – a common curse of the creative process – from the equation using predictive visual analysis and heat maps. The solution acts as a research, learning and communication platform for all campaign collaborators.

Integrated synergy – Standardization is brought to the fore, leading to a system where creative work can be submitted to the platform, assessed against key metrics and validated – a process that was only subjective in the past.

saving time and money – The tool allows brands to predict and avoid errors that may well be missed until a campaign goes live. The tool saves money but also saves time that would have been wasted on less successful ad testing.

Culture of experimentation – A whole new successful approach fosters a culture of innovation, testing and learning, where humans and technology work together to understand the best approach to customer engagement in unique and exciting ways.

Success across the entire marketing spectrum

With the insights gained from building and testing AI-powered campaigns, brands can expect to dramatically increase the click-through rate and overall ROI of online marketing campaigns. Once considered the great unknown by large swathes of the industry, AI has proven to contribute not only to an organization’s bottom line, but also to all of its operations, spawning a spirit of experimentation with the marketing, supported by a ‘fail-fast-learn-fast’ mentality. This approach manifests itself in several ways.

BMW online sales
Automotive manufacturers tackle the digital customer journey

First, through increased efficiency allowing the entire marketing team to create visually ready ads that can be optimized after launch using campaign data. Then there is time saved. AI users report becoming much more efficient as the tool relies on predictive modeling to determine which routes will fail and which would work well in the real world.

By using advanced technology, auto brands are also becoming more courageous and more experimental. Adopting a quick fail mentality helps marketers run more tests and experiments than was previously possible.

Now, as governments seek to leverage immunization programs to make severe mobility restrictions a thing of the past, vehicle sales are starting to rise again. In August 2021, McKinsey found that intention to buy cars over the coming year had returned to almost pre-pandemic levels. This suggests the lockdowns have dampened a wave a bit, with intention to purchase new cars 94% from pre-COVID-19 levels and up 7% from September 2020[2].

Showrooms may be the place of chrome dreams again, but many motorists have grown accustomed to finding and purchasing their next ride online. Reaching and engaging them today and in the future requires the expertise of automotive marketers, but also the harnessed power of AI as this recovering industry puts the pedal to the metal once again.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustinefou/2021/03/02/are-marketers-overspending-in-digital/?sh=2011ee8e3970

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/how-consumers-behavior-in-car-buying-and-mobility-changes-amid-covid-19


About the Author: Mark Bainbridge is co-founder of Dragonfly ai


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