Digital and Social Media for Car Dealers Part 4: Metrics


This article is the fourth in a series on the use of digital and social media for automotive retail managers in an increasingly dynamic world.

Sample Content Marketing Dashboard from Econsultancy

By 2013, 80% of new car buyers and almost 100% of used car buyers had already switched to starting their purchase journey online, according to McKinsey. By 2017, in a report from Cap Gemini, the number of new car buyers in developing markets willing to consider completing the entire car buying transaction online had risen to 90%. And it’s not only retail buyers who have turned to digital and social media. SME’s, corporate and fleet buyers are doing the same. One result is that car dealers, while still important later in the buying process, are no longer the primary source of information at the search stage. Auto retailers no longer control the information shared and their ability to influence the customer has diminished. Instead of visiting a dealer first, prospects visit a range of online platforms – manufacturer and dealer web sites, social media, aggregators, blogs and forums – to gather information. On the basis of the information they find, the majority of prospects visit only one or two dealers, so the competition is intense to get onto the prospect’s visit list. To win that place dealers have to measure the results of their efforts at all of the possible touch points that the prospect uses.  This post explains what to measure and why.

Most retail managers find themselves spending more and more money on digital and social media but are less and less sure that they can present a convincing business case for their investment. They have all heard stories where social media has added value: generating name awareness at a fraction of the cost of traditional promotion tools; wowing customers with real-time service responses and technical support more efficiently than ever before; building a community of engaged followers and fans in months rather than years.  But, in their 2017 survey of US digital marketeers, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) website reported that only 10% felt able to prove quantitatively that social media makes a bottom-line contribution, down from 15% in the 2014 Survey. The problem is that managers can see that digital and social media marketing works. They just don’t know what KPI’s to use to make it work for them and prove that the investment is worthwhile to their bosses and peers.

Part 1: What types of Metrics are there?

Hard and Soft Social Media Metrics

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The simplest classification of metrics is to sort them into quantitative (“Hard”) and qualitative (“Soft”).  Soft metrics, such as Facebook ‘Likes’, downloads or ‘Followers’ were centre-stage in the early years of social media. At their best they are subjective judgments, based on observations and simple theories: ” If they like you, they will buy from you”.  As social media budgets have risen and the need to justify the investment has become more important, Hard metrics – numerical measures derived from statistically significant sample sizes – have moved to the forefront. Examples include referrals, form completions, and clicks linked to purchase.

Linking metrics to business performance.

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Over time, the number of metrics has expanded into hundreds as managers grapple with a rise in the range of digital and social media channels. The Digital Metrics Field Guide, published in 2014 by the Advertising Research Foundation, lists 197 covering four primary digital channels (e-mail, mobile, social and the Web) — and, although the list is extensive, the guide says that it is not complete. Do managers really need 197 digital metrics? If not, what do they need?

Selecting Social Media MetricsThe American Marketing Association (AMA) report on Social Media Metrics proposes that managers uses a 5-step process to decide which metrics to use. Their process ensures a direct link between the metrics and the business objectives. The metrics they use fall into four broad types linked to the type of data they provide: A. Consumption metrics (volume of downloads, page views and clicks). These tell you how many people see your content; B. Sharing metrics (sharing or retweeting, for example). These tell you about the level of engagement with your content; C. Lead-generation metrics (measuring forms completions, subscriptions, contact details and leads after prospective clients consumed the content). These tell you how many people are converted from visitors to suspects or prospects); and D. sales metrics (using software tying prospective buyers to content that they consumed). These metrics tell you how many leads you converted into buyers.

The business consultancy, Bain & Company, propose a similar list. They sort the main KPI’s into three groups:

  1. Engagement metrics. Companies find it valuable to track the percentage of customers “engaged”—looking at such basic measures as site traffic, fans and followers. Additional engagement metrics include buzz and share of voice.
  2. Customer metrics. Social media leaders invest in the tools necessary to track shifts in loyalty and Net Promoter Score (NPS). They also invest in the manual review of social media comments and posts to capture shifts in sentiment. Social analytics providers are still developing their machine-based algorithms to better capture sentiment trends, which are difficult to obtain with natural language translation. Bain expect that these firms—along with the broader set of social engagement, social management and social intelligence support tool providers—will continue to invest to improve their tools. They also expect further consolidation in this space as the market continues to evolve and mature.
  3. Financial impact. Leaders aggressively capture personal contact data and identifiers to link social media profiles and associated behaviour to customer records databases. Contests and promotions that require registration of email addresses and Twitter “handles” help bridge social identities. Once the connection is made, companies can more easily track leads, conversion and ROI on social campaigns.

Part 2: Same Metrics for B2B and B2C?

Developing B2B Social Media MetricsAlmost, but not quite. Most metrics assume that you are focusing on private, retail car buyers – B2C. If that’s the case then the classification offered by the AMA and Bain should fit the bill. However, if you’re aiming at rental, contract hire, corporate and fleet buyers you need a tailored approach because social media has impacted on B2B as well as B2C businesses. In the same way that the retail buyer gets data on-line, so too does the fleet or corporate buyer.  The traditional approach to account management through face-to-face relationship building now has an on-line component. For example, research by Global web index found that 26% of B2B buyers are more likely to use Twitter and 28% will follow a business on social media. Digital and Social Media offer a chance to re-connect with the business buyer by creating useful and insightful content – information that truly assists a buyer, rather than just presenting a product, which can be replicated across business channels for existing buyers and prospects to use. As with B2C, the metrics you use should reflect the primary business objectives of B2B marketing – 1. Increase Customer Acquisition through Lead Generation; 2. Boost NPS, Recommendation and Advocacy; 3. Raise the number of product trials and road tests and survey respondents about your product.

Part 3: The Core Metrics for Digital and Social Media

Just two points before we start: First, I’ll assume that you have access to Google Analytics or a similar dashboard. Second, as you have read this far, Content Marketing Instituteyou already know that whatever piece of content you create you will have defined its objectives before you started to produce it. It was to increase awareness of your business brand or generate leads or improve customer retention or up-sell existing customers or…? Whatever you produce, describe your business purpose from the start. With that done we  can start to measure how effective it was.

A. Consumption Metrics: These focus on how many people have viewed or accessed your content.

  • Users: this provides the total number of unique visitors to a particular page on your website.
  • Views or Impressions: records the total number of times a particular page on your website, be it a product page, a video, a download or a blog post, is viewed.
  • Unique Views: this metric combines views that are generated by the same user during the same session, so you can gain an insight into the number of sessions during which that page was viewed.
  • Chatter or ‘Buzz‘: Monitoring the sentiment of customer reactions to your content or company and its products and services across a range of channels
  • Analyse consumption metrics in combination with additional insights on Google Analytics:
    • Location: This can really help to inform your content creation process. For example, if the majority of your blog traffic comes from the UK or Middle East, maybe you should focus on trying to reach out to prominent influencers from that region to contribute to your blog.
    • Source/Medium: Provides information on what channels assisted with the consumption of your content, so you can create content to complement those channels.
    • Mobile: How many users are consuming your content on mobile devices? This will dictate whether or not you should be focusing on long-form content, or formats that are easy to view on mobile, such as infographics or video.

B. Sharing Metrics: These tell you if your content is resonating with your target audience and how often it is shared with others. The level of resonance and sharing contributes to two business goals: dealer brand awareness and customer engagement. If you want to boost sharing, make it easy for site visitors to link your content to theirs. Place sharing buttons on every piece of content and provide embed code for graphics.

  • Likes, Shares, Re-tweets, +1’s and pins: this data is available from your analytics dashboard .
  • Forwards: records the total number of times a e-mail or newsletter was forwarded to another address
  • In-bound links: this is the number of hyperlinks back to your site from another site. The one constant and reliable strategy in search engine optimization is that sites with a variety of high quality backlinks rank higher in the search engine results pages.

C. Lead Generation Metrics: These tell you how often your content converts to a lead. Some events lead directly to a lead; others are indirect – steps on the way to creating a lead.

  • Form Completion and Downloads: how many of your visitors access gated content
  • E-Mail Subscriptions: the number of visitors who sign up for e-mails, newsletters and special content
  • Blog Subscriptions: how many visitors sign up for your blog
  • Blog Comments: available from your blog dashboard
  • Conversion Rate: how many visitors convert to marketing qualified leads

You can usually manage indirect lead generation via your dashboard:

  • Set a dollar value for indirect events: this might include subscriptions to free newsletters, completing an on-line survey or down-loading a product review
  • Custom Reports: create a custom report and chart showing the actual events against a target set by you.
  • View the Page Value data: this shows the value of each page according to the number of views on the way to a lead or conversion

D. Sales Metrics: These tell you if you actually made any money due to your content.

  • Online Sales: this data is available from your e-commerce system
  • Offline Sales: your CRM should show you which pages the buyer visited or the content they consumed. It allows you to put a value on each step in the journey.
  • Customer Retention: your CRM should show you the content consumed by returning customers. Again, that allows you to place a value on the most important content.
  • ROI: this calculation compares the net contribution from your social media investment with the cost of creating and maintaining it.

E. Rejection Metrics: while some pieces of your content may be successful, other pieces may not. Here are some other metrics to look at to check what works and what does not:

  • Bounce Rate: the percentage of people who land on your page and immediately leave, without viewing any other pages. Rate at which people leave your site after viewing only one page.
  • Exit Rate: the percentage of people who leave your site from a given page. It’s possible these people have browsed other pages of your site before exiting.
  • Time on Site: a measure in minutes and seconds of how long a visitor stays on your site before exiting.
  • Pages/Session: the total number of pages a user visits whilst browsing your website. This is a good indicator of the extent to which they are engaging with your content.
  • News vs. Returning: this one sums itself up really… the number of new visitors to your website vs. the number of returning visitors. It can help you to figure out how many people are engaging with your content for the first time, or on a regular basis!

 Finally, what are you measuring? Paid, Earned and Owned Social Media

Uses of Owned, Earned and Paid Social Media Content Brandwatch

Thanks to Brandwatch for the graphic.

Digital and Social media content comes in three primary forms: paid, earned, and owned. It’s vital that whatever metrics you measure they are split into free, sometimes called ‘organic’ or earned,  versus paid and owned. Each should be assessed separately. Only that way can you properly decide what works and what doesn’t and replicate successful strategies.  Many digital channels can use a mix of forms. For example you can ‘own’ a page on Facebook but you can also have an ad on Facebook that is ‘paid’ for by you. As you build your digital presence you quickly need to know which type works best for you.

Paid media is all of the content you pay for — search, display advertising, social ads, PPC campaigns and the like. With paid media, a business is paying to leverage a channel with the aim of driving traffic to their owned media (web sites, blogs), and landing new business.

Earned Media puts the customer, client, or brand advocate/influencer in the driving seat when they Tweet, share, like, or maybe comment and/or write about your content, or share their experiences about your organization, good and bad. Think of it as equivalent to “word-of-mouth” marketing whereby trusted advocates influence prospects to take a deeper look at what a business has to offer.  It feeds off high quality content (and expertly executed customer experiences) and can result in increased visibility and reach—buzz—amongst supporters.

Owned Media is all of the digital and physical properties that belong to your brand or business. That can be websites, blogs and social media channels, apps, and stores (online and offline). Both paid and earned media are designed to drive prospects to your owned media  and its capabilities are critical in converting them into paying customers.

To select your critical KPI’s think of each primary form having to solve the same three problems: 1. Generating traffic, similar to putting leads into a sales funnel; 2. Converting the leads through each stage of your funnel until they actually do something – give you their contact details, sign up for a newsletter, download a report or place an item into a basket; 3. Deliver sales  and profits – how much did you actually earn from the process.

According to Zoometrix, the the bottom-line metrics will be different depending on the form:

Paid Media
– How many exposures the campaign ads generated, how much traffic did it get?
– How many of those eye balls translated to prospects, turned into leads, converted, etc.
– Did you meet the expected ROI or sales target through the campaign period?

Owned Media
– Did your owned media get enough traffic as expected, and did it see any incremental lift in in-direct traffic via views?
– Did your owned media do its job in effectively driving conversions from free traffic sources?
– Did the owned media assist and contribute to the bottom-line during the campaign period? By how much?

Earned Media
– How many posts or mentions did you brand have?
– Did the posts turn into conversations? (i.e. through re-tweets, replied comments, etc.)
– Did the conversations through Earned Media yield positive growth in positive sentiments of your brand? Correlations to sales?

Don’t forget, each of these forms is related since they don’t work in silos. So, you also need to look at summary metrics for all forms
– Total brand exposure (traffic, impressions, brand mentions, etc.)
– Outcome (non-dollar outcome that is critical to the business)
– Incremental sale contribution and ROI of the program

That’s all for now in this series and I welcome any comments you’d like to post.