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Combining Online & Offline Data in Automotive – Part Two

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In a previous blog post, I discussed the need and importance of combining online and offline data in the automotive industry. Now, in part two of this blog series, I will discuss some of the basic tools needed for combining online and offline data, as well as give some high-level examples of the types of offline data you may want to ingest and merge with your online data.

What tools do I need?

After deciding to make the connection of online and offline data, one obvious question is; “what tools do I need to make the connection?”. If you are a large automotive company, or their ad agency, chances are you already have some of the necessary tools. However, you most likely don’t have all the needed tools and you most likely aren’t maximizing the full capabilities of the tools you do have. This is where a tech partner who specializes in digital transformation is crucial.

At a high-level, you will need a tag management system to tag your website and online ads and collect data from user engagements. You will need a data management platform (DMP) to house all this data you are collecting. You will need an analytics platform to make sense of the data and create reporting dashboards that inform the organization. These tools should all be able to talk to one another and should have bi-directional capabilities, allowing the business user to send data and info from one system to another. There are additional tools needed to take your capabilities to the next level, and we will discuss some of those later. For now, lets focus on using the tools mentioned above, which collect online data, and discuss how offline data can be ingested into these tools and combined with the online data.

How to make the online-to-offline connection

Most auto manufacturers have given each person in their customer database an identification number to keep track of their interactions with the company, from the day they bought the vehicle, as they have service performed at dealerships, through the entire life-cycle of the vehicle(s) they have purchased. This identification number allows auto companies to create a consumer profile where much of their data is combined. Much of this is offline data. Many auto companies have mastered the use of this data for CRM purposes, but there is still much room for improvement in-terms of using and combining online data with offline data.

A high-level overview of this online-to-offline data merger would include ingesting/uploading a data file or data-set of offline data, that includes a consumer ID field, into your DMP. Then you would want to match the consumer ID field in the offline data-set with the data platform IDs stored within your DMP, using a known data-point such as email address. That way, you can take all the offline data you have on that customer and add it to the online data you are collecting on them as they visit your site and view your online ads. Now you have a more complete profile of your customers.

A simple and common example would be collecting a consumer’s email within a form they filled out in-person at an event. Then sending them an email with some kind of promotion and call to action. The user clicks/engages with the call to action within the email and is taken to your website. You now know this website visitor’s email, which you can use to ingest and match all the offline data collected on them, to the platform ID within your DMP created for them as they entered your site. You have now effectively tied the offline data collected on that consumer at the event, to the online data captured during their website visit. Another common offline data touch-point in automotive comes during interactions at the dealership, such as purchasing a vehicle or bringing a vehicle in for service. This offline data can be ingested and merged with online data in the same manner as the data collected in the event example used above.

Where the analytics platform comes in

Now that we have merged the online and offline data, we need to start making sense of it using reports and dashboards within your analytics reporting tool. A quality analytics platform should allow you to slice your data and view in different ways that help you make better business, marketing and advertising decisions. As you use the analytics reports in the analytic tool to better understand the full consumer profiles you have created, you can start to create new and more valuable audience segments within your DMP to target with individualized website content and ad campaigns. We will get further into this topic, and the additional tools needed, in part three of this blog series on combining online and offline data in automotive. Stay tuned for part three next week.

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Michael Thomas, Director of Analytics

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