Most major retail segments in the United States have gone to using big data as a driving force for their marketing. The car business was one of the first to adopt it decades ago, but this was mostly done at the manufacturer level. Big ad agencies with big budgets used big data to determine how to post which message at what time on which venue.
Today, there’s a shift that puts the automotive industry back in the forefront of the business intelligence revolution. It isn’t just the automakers using big data anymore. It’s the dealers as well. This shift has been made possible by the increased availability of localized data about consumers – what they’re buying, how they’re buying, and why they’re buying it. What used to be national or regional can be broken down into meaningful information all the way down to the smallest substantial portion of data collection: the zip code.
Companies like String Automotive have been able to gather this data from various sources and compile it into what they call the “Dealer Positioning System.” With DPS, they assist individual dealerships as well as larger dealer groups to understand the best strategies for positioning their vehicles online and offline through advertising.
Before any consumer groups get up in arms about privacy, it’s important to look at the big picture. First, the data they utilize is generally non-invasive. They aren’t using spy cameras or hackers to get data. It’s all accumulated through standard data sources such as Google Analytics and Polk Automotive Data. Second, it’s non-personalized. They can’t tell you who bought a Hyundai Sonata, but they can see that 15 people purchased Hyundai Sonata’s in a particular zip code last month and there’s a likelihood that the area is still strong for targeted Sonata advertising.
While this might not fall into a realm that would get the attention of Wikileaks or Edward Snowden, it’s valuable information that can actually help consumers as much as it helps dealers. Americans generally do not hate advertising. They hate irrelevant advertising. They hate seeing ads that bring no benefit to them, which is why business intelligence (or as String calls it: Dealership Intelligence) can actually help to craft the appropriate messages in the appropriate venues. For example, if the data shows that a particular area is likely to have F-150 buyers and they read a particular newspaper when buying cars, the data will point a Ford dealer towards putting relevant specials in that newspaper.
In essence, it benefits everyone involved. This type of data should not be scary to consumers any more than it should be dismissed by dealers. After all, car buyers and dealers all have the same basic goal – to have a successful transaction.