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FordDirect exec: TV calls-to-action demand equal mobile, Web experiences

SAN ANTONIO, TX ? A FordDirect executive at eTail West 2014 cited the need for mobile search and optimized sites as critical success factors for automakers to use in conjunction with big-budget television ads.

The executive?s ?Staying Ahead With Your Digital Strategy? keynote session laid out how FordDirect is enabling dealerships to leverage mobile, social and Web tools to better connect with car buyers and prospects. The session also presented some data from Ford showing the connection between TV and digital.

?The consumer is spending eight hours in front of screens during the day,? said John Gottschalk, vice president of business development and strategy at FordDirect, Dearborn, MI.

?Eighty-six percent of the time, the Internet user is using the device while they?re watching TV,? he said. ?Obviously, they?re watching TV, they see an ad, [and] we want to coordinate those types of things with our online presence as well, so [that] when 40 percent are doing mobile searches that occurred while watching TV, they get a similar experience.?

Digital research
FordDirect is a joint venture between Ford and its franchised dealers. The company develops digital products to reach Ford?s consumers.

According to research presented during the session, the average car buyer makes 1.2 visits to dealerships before they buy a car. This indicates that consumers are doing the bulk of research on their own nowadays.

Additionally, 40 percent of car buyers use their mobile device to shop the dealer?s Web site.

The key for dealers is to keep their Web and mobile sites clean with features that play up search. According to a study from FordDirect and the Automotive Buyers last year, 26 percent of consumers click through to a dealers? Web site once tapping on an ad.

Similarly, customizing video, content and images for individual dealerships is becoming increasingly more important in keeping up with consumers who are already bombarded with information.

Mobile chat can also be an interesting component for dealerships to incorporate into their sites.

Social emphasis
The session also presented a look at a recent Super Bowl television ad that Ford ran called ?Nearly double? for its hybrid Fusion vehicle.

The campaign integrated the hashtag #nearlydouble into TV ads to generate 61 million impressions.

There was also a Web component to the campaign that included a builder and calculator tool that let consumers play around with the Fusion and show how the car doubles the number of fuel miles.

Ford also recently launched a program called consumer connection, which is a multichannel platform that lets dealers customize their marketing channels, including mobile, direct mail and email.

The idea is that dealerships are able to change marketing on the fly and segment specific consumers with tailored marketing.

For example, one dealership leveraged the tool on a slow business day. 

The dealership sent out a segmented email campaign that offered a free battery check. A few hours later, the dealership had 10 appointments for the next day.

?We run pilots constantly,? Mr. Gottschalk said.

?Through this process of building out these multichannel approaches, we were able to find out that we were able to drive five percent incrementality in sales and then an eight percent incrementality in service," he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York