The Weakest Link in Data Attribution Part II: Data Standardization

Today, too many dealerships rely on old attribution models, such as first-click or last-click. While current technological advancements provide a clearer picture of marketing with more up-to-date attribution models, dealers are failing to leverage the best technology to reach customers.


There is an obvious challenge. While selling cars over multiple channels can be a good thing, all channels are not created equal. How do you know where to invest your ad dollars for the best ROI, especially with so many touchpoints, vendors and diverse reporting standards?


In my opinion, it’s time for a data standard.


Data Standardization: What’s the Big Deal?

When it comes to data standardization there is a glaring challenge: Lack of consistency in measuring marketing effectiveness. No common language exists that allows us to hold each other accountable and move the industry forward. And this is felt by everyone: dealers, vendors and OEMS. Think about it. How many vendors do you have? How many reports do you receive each month? Now, think about those reports. How many of them contain different metrics?


The reality is that every vendor has their own report showing their own metrics. And, too often these metrics offer little to no actionable data. At the dealer level this creates a blind spot with no actual data, forcing them to make decisions based on emotion, often replacing a vendor with a different one, ultimately becoming a rinse and repeat. On the flip side, the lack of a data standard forces your vendors to spend more time protecting their business than building yours.


What’s at Stake?

KNOWING what touches are influencing a customer journey is what is at stake.  If you don’t know what is working in your marketing and what is not, and can’t trust your data, how can you act?  


It is time to stop wasting time and energy. Time to find a solution that creates alignment, allowing your dealership to assess vendors and their technology on a level playing field. 


As an industry we must establish a set of best practices that uniformly show how we’re measuring engagement. Otherwise, vendors will be forced to invest time individualizing metrics to compete against each other, rather than innovating their operations, bringing them into alignment towards the actual goal …truly influencing a customer journey and correctly setting the dealership up to bring home car sales.


Google Analytics: A Good First Step in Data Standardization

How can you create alignment in the current marketplace? By empowering your vendors to work FOR you with a data standard that actually works


In my opinion, the best current option is Google Analytics. I say this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Vendor/technology neutral platform. As a dealer this allows you to have data dropped in an arena that does not belong to one specific vendor. All data is housed in one place for an apples to apples comparison. 
  2. Actionable insights. Google Analytics can provide real insights into how marketing investments are performing. However, it is not a perfect tool and must be set up correctly. Currently too many dealers measure their marketing efforts without looking beyond the Google Analytics dashboard of visits, sessions and time on site. If you invest the time to set it up correctly, and work with your vendors to establish appropriate tags, Google Analytics provides a much deeper level of insight. 
  3. Industry momentum. Thanks to the work of PCG Companies, what was once a conversation has gained momentum in delivering actionable data.  At Client Command we work closely with industry leaders to learn from and add to the efforts to standardize data. The PCG Specification can serve as a guide for you to set up consumer engagement events and goals in Google Analytics, providing a clear picture of which investments contribute to the eventual car sale.


Three Simple Steps to Get Started

A good place to start is as follows:

  • Standardize your Google Analytics and tags for source/medium. Ensure your naming conventions are correct, misnaming a source or medium skews your data. The source identifies what is sending traffic to you including advertisers, websites and vendors such as Client Command, Google, etc. Whereas medium is the advertising or marketing method including email newsletter, organic, CPC, etc.
  • Set up Google Analytics to connect any customer interaction with your website to engagement that could lead to a sale. Ensure that you can truly see which source and medium triggers the most events leading to behaviors tied to purchase -- completing lead forms, using the trade in tool, evaluating finance options, viewing photos, etc. The PCG Specification provides a clear picture of how to do this.
  • Establish a comparison to track your vendors. An open standard for Google Analytics will help unify the automotive industry vendor community. Request that your vendors incorporate these insights to improve their reporting. Then you can set up a spreadsheet where you track vendors, how much you spend with each, how they impact engagement, etc.


What is the upside of pushing towards a new data standardization model?  It’s the key to getting better!  Once these basics are established endless possibilities are available to evaluate the effectiveness of vendors -- from digital advertising, to chat tools, to trade-in tools – you name it.


Better reporting and attribution models are necessary to know what touches are influencing a customer journey so as to maximize your marketing dollars.


So, to win at this game, find and work with vendors committed to optimizing technology that measures that customer journey across all digital and non-digital touch points.  

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