I suspect most of us would like to throw a wrench at the next person who talks about needing to “think outside the box,” so I’m not going to be that person.

However, at the risk of dodging airborne tools, I would like to talk about the need for dealers to “think outside the vertical” — as in, outside the vertical marketplace, when it comes to data-driven marketing.

Here’s what I mean: We all understand that car buyers’ habits and patterns are changing.

Physical visits to the dealership are becoming less important as more and more comparison shopping is being done online.

Smart dealers are ensuring they have the most robust online presence possible, posting ads for the vehicles in their inventory not just on their own sites, but leveraging additional platforms like Kijiji and others to increase their reach and maximize exposure.

But beyond simply reach in the autos category, integrated horizontal sites — those that offer online buying and selling across multiple categories (real estate, jobs, housing, buy/sell) — offer an unparalleled level of insight into your prospective customer’s online journey and interests.

Who are these shoppers? What’s going on in their lives?

What life stage are they at or approaching? First home? Baby on the way? Downsizing? What does that tell us about what they’re going to need next?

These are the kinds of data-driven insights that offer a very different — and advantageous — value proposition for dealers. The ability to effectively and efficiently target your next customer.

Let me share some factoids that we see at Kijiji. We have an average of 350,000 to 400,000 vehicles listed on our autos site at any given time. Our average monthly visitor is spending a little over 40 minutes in Kijiji Cars & Vehicles alone.

But they’re not stopping there. This is where it gets really interesting — and unique to a horizontal platform. That rich data gives us great perspective on an individual consumer’s journey. And we’re able to use that horizontally — in the form of giving brands highly targeted opportunities to reach the right shoppers with the right display ads.

For instance, we know Kijiji users who are seeking out for sale listings of a particular make of vehicle spend more time on our site than average. For example, users who searched for General Motors vehicles viewed other Cars & Vehicles content 1.6 times longer than a typical Kijiji user.

Outside of autos, we also know that they look at and search for listings of ATVs, tools, storage, land for sale and vacation packages to a higher extent than our average user.

Following the same example above, our data reveled that GM site users were almost 2 times more interested in boats, 1.8 times more interested in tools and 1.72 times more interested in land for sale than the typical user.

Having insights into this consumer behavior immediately provides intelligence that vertical sites cannot offer, and allows you to target the prole of your customer very easily and effectively.

Life-stage data insights are very powerful. So what? Well, it suggests that if we put a GM vehicle ad in front of a user who is looking for a boat, power tools or land for sale, there’s a statistically higher chance that they will click through based on their demonstrated history.

The same holds true with respect to life stages and milestones. If we can see that a user is a 20- something urban condo dweller, they’re probably not looking for a minivan or a pickup truck. However, they’re possibly interested in a budget-friendly vehicle; it depends on their life stage — but we know who is.

That’s getting outside the vertical, and leveraging data horizontally — across different categories — to paint a full and detailed picture of that individual user.

In turn, that lets us better connect them with what they’re looking for. For the dealer, that offers an opportunity to pitch your vehicles to people who are statistically more likely to want to buy them. That rings of using your marketing dollars effectively. Maximizing your digital presence by taking advantage of the range of available marketing tools is essential today, but it doesn’t stop there.

Leveraging a horizontal platform that offers data-driven insights that connect your inventory with the right potential buyers is the next-level advantage for those who think “outside the vertical.”

Leanne Kripp is head of autos for Kijiji