Over half of visitors to the car brand websites were exposed to online activity such as display and search, with one in 10 subsequently converting, according to new research. The study, from the IAB, also indicated there is a ‘positive latent brand effect’ of display advertising within the automotive sector. The research looks into the [...]

Over half of visitors to the car brand websites were exposed to online activity such as display and search, with one in 10 subsequently converting, according to new research. The study, from the IAB, also indicated there is a ‘positive latent brand effect’ of display advertising within the automotive sector. The research looks into the roles all forms of digital media play in the customer conversion journey within the automotive sector.


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Among the top findings were:
• Between 4% and 11% were converting online following visits to the brand websites
• Between 52% and 64% of visitors to the brand websites were exposed to online activity such as display and search
• Click through metrics are not necessarily the best way to assess online display advertising because exposure to display advertising results in a positive latent brand effect. Integrated online activity can be the best way of maximizing conversions. Up to half of those exposed to the display advertising had also used search.
The study highlights that the online customer journey is not a simple linear path but in actual fact the various digital touch points consumers are exposed to all have their role to play in encouraging a customer to convert..
The study showed that the average customer conversion journey takes just over a week and that consumers were exposed to an average of 2 display ads, 0.6 natural search clicks, 0.2 sponsored search clicks and were exposed to 0.1 mentions of the brands within social media environments.
The IAB listed three key take-outs from the study:
Search and display work well together – the research shows that across all four brands 40 – 50% of those exposed to display advertising also used search and 52 - 64% of total website visitors were exposed to or used some form of online activity (display, PPC, SEO or buzz).
A fully optimised and user friendly website is key - 4-11% of consumers that visited the brands websites went on to carry out a conversion. The difference across the 4 brands highlights the important role a brands website plays within the customer conversion journey – demonstrating that the brands online store should be like an irresistible shop window for the consumer, providing them with all the product information they need to make their online experience as enjoyable and easy as possible.
Display advertising can cause a positive latent effect - The brands enjoyed a positive latent effect by consumers; demonstrating that online display advertising performs better than is widely perceived. An example of this is with Brand B, 34% out of 38% of consumers had not been exposed to any other form of advertising online other than display and went onto visit the brands website within a week of seeing the ad – proving the power of online display advertising as a brand building tool and that click through should not be used as a measure of campaign success. Just like with other media such a TV, Outdoor and Cinema consumers might not act on the ads straight away, but it increases their awareness of the brand and likelihood to engage with the brand in the future.
The IAB’s senior insights manager, Sorcha Garduce, said: This study continues to highlight that brands shouldn’t rely on click through metrics as a measurement of campaign success. All 3 studies have revealed that online display advertising performs better than is widely perceived and results in a positive latent effect.
The research was carried out between June to October 2011 in partnership with research agency Nielsen, buzz monitoring specialists, NM Incite and four leading automotive brands, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes and Range Rover.
The research is the third in the series of customer conversion studies the IAB has released.
The study uses the same methodology as the previous two studies – a panel of 50,000 opted in consumers were traced using specialist software to map the exact path to conversion (a conversion in this study is defined as configuring a model, downloading a brochure or booking a test drive)
The online marketing communications of these brands were tagged to allow identification of internet users exposed to their activity. The results provided key considerations for brands looking to maximize on the complex online customer journey.
The studies are intended to provide a benchmark for brands in any sector to approach their digital marketing, and the ways in which they should make their communications work together in terms of messaging, usability and calls to action to forge a consistent, effective online brand experience.
Methodology
The online marketing communication of these four automotive brands were tagged to allow identification of internet users exposed to their activity. The URLs within the sites of the brands are categorized into one of two areas – ‘general visit’, ‘conversion’.

Download the full research (IAB members only)