Honda Uses Lightweight Apps To Drive Traffic To Auto Dealers

HondaFor Honda and other automotive advertisers, TV tentpole events such as the Super Bowl are their main drivers of brand awareness.

But mobile has increasingly emerged as a priority in test budgets since performance-based strategies can affect sales, too, and auto manufacturers want additional ways to remarket to users who, for example, are nearing the end of their lease.

Car purchases aren’t exactly conducive to lower-funnel targeting tactics given the rate of consideration that goes into such a big-ticket item. Still, brands see value in replicating an “app-install-like” experience on mobile, but with more opportunities to nurture the user after the initial download or action.

Honda was one of the first brands to try out mobile ad platform Vibes’ WalletAds, a format the company launched last February.

When a user clicks the “Save to Phone” function from a display or mobile banner promotion, the offer is automatically downloaded to the consumer’s passbook via Apple Wallet or Android Pay. Since launch, WalletAds has deployed 40 brand campaigns.

Honda had previously experimented with mobile wallet ads, but this was its first execution that tied in a specialized incentive, said Ernie Kelsey, manager of Honda Regional Marketing. Its first test campaign kicked off during a special car sales event last spring when it offered a specific subset of customers $500 off their next car purchase or lease.   

“Regardless of whether we are running a brand initiative or retail sales event, we look for smart ways to get our message in front of potential customers,” Kelsey added. “I think people appreciated getting a relevant offer in a way that [natively] aligns with how they use their tech.”

In the case of the Honda Dream Garage Sales event, the brand’s goal was to “sell down” inventory for Accords and Civics. That’s industry lingo for reaching the end of a model year for a particular make.

Because the mobile campaign was centered around a discount, Honda didn’t want to blast the offer to its entire base of in-market car shoppers. The company wanted to reach people who were not only in-market for these vehicles, but who might need a little extra push to complete certain actions.

“Not only was it a very cool incentive, but as we winded down the sell-down event we could send additional messages to foster this ongoing communication based on their geocode and relevant to their local dealer,” said Adam Levitt, a supervisor for in-market digital and social strategy at Honda’s agency, RPA.

Since its initial test, Honda has run several more WalletAds campaigns. Kelsey noted a key point was Honda’s ability to scale up or down on impressions based on the rate of redemptions it fields at the dealership level.

The fluid nature of WalletAds is catching on with brands since the format lives in the wallet and acts like a “lightweight app,” according to Brian Bradtke, Vibes’ VP of mobile advertising.

screenshotThink about the last time you opened Apple Pay or Apple Wallet. Chances are you have a stash of airline boarding passes in reserve from the rebranded Passbook app. Brands see the possibility of turning the native functionality of wallet and payment technology into active advertising vehicles.

“Not only are you able to send reminders beyond [the initial offer/action], you’re able to update the content in real time with geospecific data or sales offers, so it’s not static,” added Kimberly Smith, GM of mobile for Flashtalking, the rich-media ad server that worked with Honda to deliver the WalletAds programmatically.

Vibes also partners with other major mobile exchanges and platforms, including Millennial Media, Undertone, Foursquare, Opera Mediaworks and Verve.

In the case of Honda, it layered in both first- and third-party data to form a very specific segment, and re-evaluated its retargeting strategy to factor in if someone had previously visited its site or was exposed to other placements.

Since American Honda can pass data to its dealer network and vice versa, the brand can track in real time when people used a coupon and link that redemption back to the impressions it was serving.

Levitt and Kelsey liked the fact that the format mimicked the feel of an app download, but factored in eCRM capabilities, such as push notifications and access to new calls to action after the initial offer was downloaded to the wallet.

The technology also bridges the gap between brand marketing and local/regional sales goals.

“We’re ultimately trying to sell cars, so whatever we can do that ladders back up to that, there’s a lot of willingness and curiosity on Honda’s part to keep trying out new technology in mobile,” Levitt said. “That’s partly why these wallet executions are so interesting for us.”

Although the brand declined to share specifics around sales lift, Levitt noted engagement was equally high among Android and iOS users. Mobile wallet install rates for Honda’s initial nationwide sales event were six times higher than the average install rate for advertisers.

In a consumer survey, Vibes found 49% of users preferred a mobile offer as a deliverable versus 26% who prefer to just be taken to a mobile website when they clicked on a banner ad.

That’s not overly surprising, but Vibes claims macro influences such as growing consumer familiarity with Apple Pay, as well as other brands’ interest in mobile wallet passes as a branding mechanism, will only fan the flame in its favor.

“Part of what we think is so valuable about the wallet in advertising is it solves all these challenges like bots and click fraud,” Bradtke said. “Only a real human could save a wallet ad into their phone, so it’s a great gauge of what inventory was legitimately seen.

“Once a person interacts, the impression becomes that much more valuable, since you have this option to save the content in a perpetual place.”

 

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