Incorporating Connected Cars into Consumer Marketing Best Practices

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans spend an average of 51 minutes driving every day. (I spend much more than that — yikes! And while Europeans may drive less on average, this EU study digs into the details of the approximately 2.5 car trips they take every day.)

As more cars enter the roadways with internet connectivity and larger screen real estate on their infotainment systems, the first wave of brands are testing ways to engage consumers in this newest marketing channel. At Otonomo, we’ve given a lot of thought to all of the possibilities of the connected car. Recently, I wrote an article for the Forbes Communications Council about how marketers should think about engaging with consumers in their cars.

Connected Cars Are Just the Beginning…

Today’s opportunities are limited by the fact that drivers need to keep their eyes and minds on the road, but the situation will change as autonomous vehicles become more popular. At that point, the car could become a living room or office for some people.

… And Marketers Should Think Differently

And based on the discussions that I have had with the transportation and mobility services that have already made entrances into the car, some clear best practices are emerging. I’m putting these in priority order, with the most important and beefiest recommendations first.

Best Practice #1: Ask For Permission

Many consumers consider their cars to be an intimate setting. They’re an environment for thinking, conversing with loved ones, singing at the top of one’s lungs to embarrassing tunes or providing off-color commentary about the driving habits of others. Marketing has long penetrated this private space in the form of radio ads, which are nonpersonal and easily turned off or tuned out. But as marketers adopt personalized outreach methods, consent will be necessary to engage consumers in the most effective and personal ways.

Offering a coupon for a nearby store or suggesting a gas station when the fuel tank is close to empty are much more intrusive experiences. If you’re considering these types of strategies, it’s best to ask for permission first. Even if it doesn’t make sense for your brand to make a direct ask to your target consumers, car manufacturers’ consent management systems can allow consumers to opt into a category of communications, such as coupons, on your behalf.

Last year, we collaborated with Edison Research on a survey of 1,070 American connected car owners and new car buyers and found that 62% were interested in receiving location and time-dependent coupons and discounts suggested to them by their cars, and 45% were also interested in offers on digital billboards for products and services they use. Importantly, of the consumers who expressed interest in these new experiences, more than half were willing to share data specific to their cars in order to get them.

Best Practice #2: Use Data To Be Relevant

If consumers are going to engage with a brand within their cars, they’ll likely expect the brand to know them. The newest crop of digital natives, including my children, most certainly have this expectation. In fact, according to Deloitte’s “2019 Global Automotive Consumer Study” (download required), 75% of Americans are interested in receiving “updates regarding traffic congestion and suggested alternate routes,” and 61% would like nearby parking information.

Marketers will need to know how to leverage the data available to them in order to offer the right coupon, discount or ad at the right time. The car itself can fill in important pieces, too: location, time since the engine was turned on, fuel levels (or battery charge) and more. All of this data can be made available to brands in some way — of course, with appropriate consumer permission granted.

Best Practice #3: Design for Fast Interactions

Do you think that mobile customers are impatient? Well, what about someone who’s traveling down a highway at 70 miles per hour? Or stopped for gas in the middle of a three-hour drive? To effectively engage these on-the-go consumers, brands need digital experiences that are quick and laser-focused. The adage “less is more” is relevant here.

Best Practice #4: Consider Screen Size

When we moved from desktop to phone, we had to make our apps and our ads really small. The connected car will swing the pendulum in the opposite direction. The 15-inch infotainment touchscreen in a 2018 Tesla Model 3 is bigger than some laptops and will require design and formatting updates to leverage properly. An optimal design would follow the big-button principle more than the long-scroll.

In-Car Marketing Is Just Getting Started

Based on what I’m seeing, the most compelling in-car marketing use cases today are coming from industries like retail, quick-service restaurants, and fueling — industries in which location is paramount. Over time, I believe other types of brands will experiment with this channel and find unique ways to create value through it.

People continue to spend time in their cars, and they may soon have much more attention available while they are there. For brands, the key to leveraging this opportunity will be to find ways to build unique experiences based on consumers’ needs, desires and locations.

Otonomo enables businesses to use car data to market drivers. Contact us for more information.

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