How Auto Trader Makes Marketing Work in the U.K.
This article was originally published on Pi Marketing Solutions. Shared with permission.
So we’ve all heard of Auto Trader right? And as there are up to 8 million cars bought and sold in the UK each year Auto Trader has long been the ‘go to’ place when looking to buy or sell a car on this ‘tiny island’. The model is based on a mutual dependency between the UK’s network of up to 16,000 car dealerships and Auto Trader itself and with such a strong brand presence in the marketplace dealerships certainly benefit by advertising with Auto Trader and therefore continue to do so.
With a heritage that was largely based on a weekly printed publication, which at its peak reached a circulation of 450,000 copies, the challenge was set for Auto Trader to drive towards becoming one of the leading digital brands in the UK. Coupling this with the continuous rise in expectations of pre-sale experiences, customer service and after sales care the result has been that there is now a significant challenge for the network of car dealerships in the UK to keep up with these expectations. To address this challenge, and primarily as a philanthropic role, Auto Traders Insight Director Nick King and team have been taking the dealerships on an educational journey to ensure that they aren’t ‘left behind’ in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Auto Traders insight programme began several years ago and covered topics such as customer qualification, new enquiry response times and ‘the forecourt experience’ (just to see how close the old cliché of ‘never trusting a used car salesman’ was to the reality that they faced). As the programme continued to build momentum the team started to build the trust of the dealership network however, with over 400 sessions being held over a 2 year period scalability started to become a challenge. Each one of the meetings would have approximately 10 – 20 attendees and with a lot of time spent traveling to each session the team looked towards running them in a more digital format therefore allowing them to achieve scale, improve efficiency and enhance responsiveness.
So at the start of 2016 Auto Trader ran its first webinar targeting the UK’s dealership network, however there was one condition, the sessions needed to be as good as a live meeting. They needed to be interactive, engaging and informative to ensure that there was significant value for the teams at the dealerships to attend these sessions.
After trialing the webinar programme over a 6 month period, mainly by promoting the sessions via word of mouth, email and the Auto Trader dealership portal, the feedback was so positive Auto Trader wanted to ensure that they were providing the best experience to their attendees not only for their ‘live’ webinars but also for those that wanted to watch the sessions on-demand. They also wanted to ensure that the quality of the sessions was as good as being there in person and that the audience had a chance to ask questions – the result: an investment in a mini webinar studio and ON24’s webinar platform was approved.
With over 40 sessions now being run annually, and more planned for next year, the team are now not only reaching a wider audience more effectively but they are now starting to gain valuable insights and actionable data on what their audience is interested in and what they want more of – all with one goal in mind; making it work for the audience.
And to continue the theme of making it work for their audience there have been some key learnings along the way, most notably around the duration of the sessions, the day of the week to host them and the optimum promotional window in the run up to each webinar (which incidentally can be a little as 4 days which is of stark contrast to any ‘in person’ event!). With the use of live audience polling questions (another ‘gift’ within the ON24 platform) and the opportunity for the audience to ask live questions, the team were very quickly able to use this invaluable data to help shape their webinar content programme ensuring that it met the needs and requests from the dealership network.
But the story doesn’t end there – such was the buzz around how the team were delivering such high quality live webinars that other areas of the business and industry are now using their webinar programme and facility as an effective communications channel. Ranging from internal training sessions to car manufacturers needing to get a message out to the dealership network efficiently Auto Trader is definitely heading in the right direction in their transformation into becoming one of the leading digital brands in the UK.
And after asking Nick for his one piece of advice for any teams, marketing or otherwise, that are looking to either start their ‘webinar journey’, or are looking to optimise their current programme, the answer was simple – ‘preparation, preparation, preparation’ (which also sounds like great advice for any used car salesman wanting to show us that maybe we can trust them after all!).
Nick is the Insight Director at Auto Trader. The UK’s leading automotive market place.
He is a consumer psychologist, with a mission to understand the digital landscape and help bring this story to life for the thousands of dealers who advertise with Auto Trader.