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Shifting Gears: Why Automakers are Embracing Multi-Touch Attribution

4 minute read | May 2019

As technology has advanced, so too has the way that consumers shop for cars. Multiple visits to a series of dealerships are out. Today, the majority of consumers begin the car-shopping process online, researching options and making purchase decisions before ever stepping onto a dealer lot.

In response to this changing behavior, automakers have quickly learned that they must meet the demands of consumers who expect a digitally enhanced experience when researching and buying a car.

According to Nielsen’s Auto Marketing Report, capturing people’s attention when they’re weighing their options is critical. This requires an understanding of how to leverage different channels and touchpoints along the path to purchase to retain existing customers and win over new ones.

Many automotive marketers are finding that multi-touch attribution is key in staying in step with consumers throughout their path-to-purchase journeys. This advanced approach for measuring marketing effectiveness helps them understand consumer preferences, engage customers and prospects across channels and devices, and identify the strategies and tactics that bolster business outcomes.

Case Study: Driving Insights & Performance

It’s exciting for auto brands to see the kind of results that can be achieved when they embrace attribution. Here’s how Nielsen is helping one automaker and its agency partner refocus their efforts to optimize performance.

The Situation

Like other automakers, this company recognized that its customers were interacting with a growing number of digital channels along their paths to purchase. In response, the automaker and its agency partner began shifting more budget to digital media, leveraging online display advertising, paid search, video, retargeting and endemic advertising to influence potential customers and drive visits to the automaker’s dealer websites. Yet accurately measuring and optimizing the performance of these digital investments posed a key challenge.

The Challenge

Historically, the automaker and its agency relied on last-click data collected from its ad server to understand how each channel contributed to conversions. However, this approach was ineffective for optimizing campaigns, since they weren’t able to accurately determine how different media channels and placements affected consumer response, or where to invest budget to maximize conversions and spend efficiencies.

The automaker turned to Nielsen for a better way to track all marketing touchpoints, uncover cross-channel insights, and quickly reallocate budget to the channels and tactics that drive the most unique users and produce the most conversions.

The Solution

Leveraging the speed of Nielsen’s multi-touch attribution solution to measure performance in near real-time and quickly activate optimization recommendations, the automaker and its agency were able to:

  • Measure What Matters Most: Previously, interactions with the automaker’s “Find a Dealer” web page were used as the primary key performance indicator (KPI). Working with Nielsen, the agency was able to consolidate multiple high-value activities, including dealer searches, inventory views, quote requests and financing applications, into a single, financially oriented KPI. The automaker was then able to optimize its media spend toward this new KPI, and more effectively evaluate the bottom-line impact of its online campaigns.
  • Calculate the True Cost Per Acquisition: Leveraging Nielsen’s data feeds, the agency was able to bridge ad server discrepancies quickly and easily, reconciling ad server reported costs against actual costs at the most granular level in order to calculate the automaker’s true cost per acquisition. The agency was then able to adjust media spend among channels and tactics in order to drive more unique users and conversions at a lower cost per acquisition.
  • Prove the Effectiveness of Endemic Advertising: With access to Nielsen’s unmatched data, the agency was able to fractionally assign conversion credit to 100% of the automaker’s in-market media and identify the true (and unexpected) importance of certain channels. For instance, the agency uncovered the impact of endemic advertising on car-shopping sites like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, as well as display ads on bottom-funnel pages of the automaker’s site, and invest its budget in the top-performing publishers and placements.
  • Capitalize on Cross-Channel Synergies: By analyzing the entire online sales funnel, Nielsen revealed insights into the true value of automaker’s mid-funnel tactics, its impact on lower-funnel activities, and the sequence of channels that would provide the best opportunity to drive conversions.

The Results

As a result of the insights provided by Nielsen’s multi-touch attribution solution, the automaker and its agency were able to implement changes to their digital advertising campaigns that produced a 9.7% increase in conversion volume, a 27% increase in conversion rate, and a 7.2% increase in media efficiency.

Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era

Buying a car is a long process that requires marketers to strike a balance between consumers’ wants and needs, and the marketing and advertising touchpoints that will have the greatest influence along the way.

By unifying audience insights with multi-touch attribution, automotive marketers can gain clarity into the channels, messages and tactics that connect with consumers, encourage more dealership visits, and—most importantly—drive new car sales.

Download our Untangling Attribution’s Web of Confusion: A Primer for Marketers whitepaper to learn more.

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