In car market, 'Facebook can impact final purchase decision'

CARY, N.C. - 

You post a fun picture of you and the family from the holidays, and what happens? Dozens of likes, comments and maybe even a new friend request or two.

Big news breaks, and one of your friends posts an article with an interesting angle to that story, so you click to learn more.

Point is, people are engaged on Facebook.

And many are using it during the car shopping process.

According to statistics shared by PureCars chief executive officer Jeremy Anspach in a news release, 84 percent of car shoppers have Facebook, with close to a quarter of those folks using it a car research tool.

“When Jeremy started the company, it was built on this idea of relevancy and making sure we’re serving the most relevant content to consumers to have them engaged,” PureCars director of marketing Nancy Lim told Auto Remarketing.

 “And not only is Facebook a platform where consumers are most engaged just generally speaking, but it’s true when they’re shopping for cars as well,” Lim continued. “We’re serving broad awareness ads as well as the VIN-level retargeting ads, and both just performed incredibly well with the relevancy that’s tied to them. they’re vehicles that the shoppers have already viewed and have already showed interest in. And we’re able to show it in an environment where they’re spending 30 percent of their time.”

Lim is referring to the SmartAdvertising Social retargeting feature the company announced Thursday. She and Anspach talked Auto Remarketing by phone Monday about the new product and why Facebook, in particular, has become such an important resource for dealers.

“I think the way the industry has addressed social to date seems to be pretty hit and miss, in the sense you get dealerships who either don’t participate much at all, or they have a firm or someone in the dealership doing posting, more from a branding perspective,” Anspach said. “And there has not been much of a social play on how do you leverage the social media platform, adding market specific vehicles.”

That’s the puzzle PureCars aims to solve with its new solution, which is an extension of the SmartAdvertising platform.

According to a news release on the product, it takes live inventory from dealers and using real-time targeting technology, it delivers vehicle-specific, VIN-level ads into the news feeds of Facebook users. SmartAdvertising Social uses car buyers’ browsing history and integrates PureCars technology with Facebook. 

“The social feature is really leveraging some amazing things in the sense that now that we can market specific inventory to an audience on social, we can hit about 84 percent of car shoppers,” Anspach said. “And that’s a huge percentage. So what dealerships have been asking us for is, how do you generate more quality traffic? How do you generate more opportunities for us? And that’s what put us on to social.”

Lim added: “I think that dealers also recognize that social is a huge opportunity. And when it first came out, I think they understood that there was a huge audience there but didn’t quite know how to use it. So to Jeremy’s point, they were really just doing branding, posting things and not really thinking strategically about how to leverage it. And what we’re able to do with this new social product is serve these VIN-level ads using inventory feeds.”

Where else is Facebook handy?

There's a quote from Anspach in the news release that provides a good look at the power of Facebook in autos:  “Eighty-four percent of car shoppers are on Facebook and nearly a quarter of these shoppers use the social channel as a resource during their research stage.

Whether it’s reading reviews or getting feedback from their own networks, Facebook can impact the final purchase decision. This is why we are excited to offer social as part of our SmartAdvertising solution,” he added.

During the conversation, Lim also talked about other potential areas where Facebook can be used for dealers and automakers.

“What’s really great about Facebook is you can reach a consumer at all the different phases of the shopping process: top funnel, middle and lower funnel,” she said.

As for the dealers PureCars works with, it’s all about creating a “full-rounded strategy,” Lim said.

“They’re capturing that search traffic from people who are actively searching for whatever car they’re shopping for. And then they’re also supplementing that with display, and leveraging our display network to kind of follow that user through their online journey. I think it’s safe to say the majority of people’s online journey will eventually up on Facebook, with them spending so much time on it, that it creates that full-rounded strategy for online advertising. So, there are tons of opportunities there for dealers outside of just the branding.”

In a separate Auto Remarketing story earlier this month, we connected with Bryan Honda of Fayetteville, N.C., which used Facebook for a completely different opportunity: selling cars.

The store decided to sell vehicles in real-time directly within the Facebook platform and beta tested it on Cyber Monday.  The result?  Traffic was so strong, it actually overloaded the sales platform being used, said Bryan Honda e-commerce director Rico Glover.

“Our theory is, you put the product out first, and then you fix it. I threw the product out there, and it broke, which is good,” Glover said.

In the first hour, Glover said roughly 500 to 600 people tried to use the platform. But just because the system was overloaded didn’t mean these leads went to waste.

“The good thing about it is, though, I’m a trained lead provider,” said Glover. “So I have all of those contacts in my database. By the end of the day, I had over 1,000 interactions on the product. What that did is gave me proof of sale and interest, and a working model to actually launch the Facebook program in full.”

Additional Facebook insight

Beyond the PureCars news, Auto Remarketing got some additional insight on Facebook engagement levels within the auto space.

“With Facebook being a “pay-to-play” channel, brands definitely get more engagement (especially from their own pages) when they put money towards their posts and campaigns,” Heather Smith, the marketing communications manager at DriveTime, said in an email.

Smith oversees all social media for DriveTime.

“While we have a Facebook brand page, complete with local pages for each of our dealerships, with a community size of almost 28,000 fans, we’re lucky if we hit 1 percent of fan engagement without putting some money behind a campaign or post,” she added. “With Facebook’s targeting options and different ad types, we’ve definitely seen an influx in fans and engagement (clicks to website, comments/likes on a post), but it’s heavily dependent on the type of ad and how well we’re targeting the right audience for our content.”

Brandon Hoffman is the director of Internet marketing at KEA Advertising Inc., an advertising agency based in Valley Cottage, N.Y. His company does work in auto, and he said that engagement there is “extremely” strong.

“We've actually had some of our best performing campaigns using Facebook Ads as a lead generation medium,” Hoffman said via email. “As far as retargeting goes the audience is definitely very engaged and an advantage to Facebook Retargeting versus regular display retargeting through ad networks is two-fold.”

First, he said, there are the impressions and clicks you can generate, not to mention things like check-ins at the dealership, page and post likes, comments and so forth.

“So you get real social engagement in conjunction with the clicks and impressions,” Hoffman said.

Second, is the uptick in click-throughs.

“The click through rates tend to be higher, especially at the beginning of the campaign.  I see around 0.5 percent click through rate on Facebook ads versus 0.2-0.3 percent on display retargeting,” he noted. “Overall the cost-per click is typically around the same as display retargeting but the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rate tends to be higher.”

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