How Carsales is improving audience targeting with a data management platform

Australian car sales website talks through its use of a DMP and trading desk capabilities to improve how it segments and retargets audiences

Understanding and targeting segmented audiences, rather than digital contexts, has led Australia’s Carsales.com.au to invest in a programmatic audience targeting offering from Krux and Audience360.

In an interview with CMO, Carsales.com.au’s director of media and OEM, Anthony Saines, said the company started working with Data Management Platform (DMP) vendor, Krux, because it needed to know more about its digital audience.

The organisation also wanted to better manage and segment data to not only target prospects when they’re visiting its owned websites, but also gain the ability to target those same people externally.

“At some point in the consumer buying journey, 80 per cent of Australians looking for a car are coming through our websites, often many times,” Saines said. “We are a big partner in the value chain of people buying and selling, but there’s a big difference between someone looking for a $4000 Hyundai Excel versus a $250,000 Mercedes.

“People are buying or selling, looking at new versus used vehicles, then there are those wanting family versus sports cars, or sedans versus a midlife crisis Porsche. It wasn’t enough to say we have car buyers, we needed to segment our audience to a far greater degree.”

Saines noted people in market for a car often start the consideration process six months out, before getting serious 12 weeks before they make a purchase. As they get closer to a final decision, online activity increases and consumers spend longer periods of time researching not just on Carsales’ websites, but also dealer sites.

“For us, that 6-12 weeks when you’re really hot and open to influence is the point where we need to touch those prospects many times,” Saines said. “When they’re on our site, we know a lot about them and can push commercial messages on behalf of ourselves and our advertisers. But even when they go off and check news or weather on the wider Internet, they’re still open to influence on buying a car.

“It’s a big opportunity for us – we have to keep reminding and prompting people on behalf of our ad partners about the options. So it was about how we take advantage of people off network and retarget them either on behalf of ourselves, or for our ad partners. If we don’t make the most of the opportunity when they’re right in the decision-making process, we might not see them again for 3-5 years.”

Context versus audience

To make that happen, Carsales needed to detail buyers based on behavioural data, as well as to be able to target that relevant audience. While the company’s ad serving technology stack, SAS’s aiMatch platform, does a good job of placing ads on the pages of Carsales’ owned properties, Saines said it isn’t sophisticated enough to match again the person coming to the site. This is because the technology is based on the way sites and pages are tagged, rather than the person looking at that page, he said.

“Increasingly, the audience is as attractive for advertisers as context,” Saines continued. “I can give people the context via our website, as people don’t come to our site to see sports results, they come for a car, but we as marketers also need to generate audiences to come to our site, and we also need tools to see who’s looking at the page and to build a profile of that person.”

As an example of how ad servers can get it wrong, Sainted noted an individual who looks at five reviews and content on SUV vehicles, before moving across to one of Carsales’ sister sites on caravans.

“If I just allow the ad server to make a decision on what ad to serve that person, it may serve caravan ads,” he said. “It’s far better to give you an ad on a great deal on a seven-seater SUV Prado because your behaviour indicated that.

“You can’t do that across your own network and then external sites unless you have a DMP that allows you to build profiles and take those segments to retarget. The DMP is the enabler for all of this.”

Carsales chose Krux because it offered the best value for money, data segmentation capabilities, localised technical and service support and could also be used to take Carsales’ data out to multiple DSPs, ad exchanges and trading desks, Saines said.

The decision to invest in a DMP was made both by the marketing team researching and wanting to retarget Carsales’ audiences, as well as staff selling its advertising offering, he said.

“This is a very complex space and a lot of the stuff we’re doing is relatively bleeding edge,” Saines said. “Everyone talks about the cliché of big data, and this is one application of that.”

Trading in trusted data

Carsales then partnered with Audience360 to take its audience data to the wider market. Saines said it was vital to find a partner that traded in trusted branded data – something he claimed was lacking in the Australian DSP and ad exchange market.

“Say you want to target auto ‘intenders’: There will be some data to augment your buy with but it’s not trusted or branded,” he claimed. “No one is saying ‘this is my source of data’; the market is very opaque and immature. There is either little supply or people demanding the data haven’t learnt to ask the right questions yet.”

As a result, Saines suggested a number of advertisers and marketers could be building data pools that are “relatively worthless”.

“For example, the data being used by a DSP [demand-side platform] could be based on car enthusiast sites, but that’s nowhere near the same quality as our audience of true car prospects. Yet these will be marketed as auto intenders,” he said. “You can’t say someone who loves cars on a forum site for enthusiasts is in the market for a car – loving cars is different to being in the market for one.

“It’s very nefarious and loose.”

Another thing advertisers need to be mindful of is how quickly data can get stale, Saines said.

“Audience360 provides a marketplace for publishers like us to bring in our data, transact on the open ad exchanges for video or standard display advertising, and be paid fairly for it while only using that data for purpose we said,” he said.

According to Audience 360 managing director, Damian Cook, the DSP reaches more than one billion global ‘intenders’ per month in-market for automotive, property, retail, technology and travel products and services. Alongside Carsales, other publishing partners include Webjet, iCar Asia and Web Motors Brazil.

Cook said his company currently has reach to 91,767 Australians in the market for Toyota Corolla vehicles in the last 30 days, along with more than 200,000 Australians intending to travel to the US in the last 30 days, and 197,479 Australians looking to buy a new home over the same time period.

Saines said Audience 360 and Krux have also allowed Carsales to programmatically target audiences across video and social, opening up new markets for both itself and its advertising partners.

“We see this as a real area of growth in 2015,” he added.

Krux and Audience360 form strategic partnership

Earlier this month, Krux and Audience360 formalised a strategic partnership that sees Krux become the preferred DMP partner for Cook’s services. Cook and Krux A/NZ country manager, Jo Gaines, told CMO the partnership was a no-brainer given the overlap in customer base and their complementary DMP and DSP capabilities.

“We’re working with Damian and publishers and marketers that haven’t realised value of the data and are looking for someone to help them understand what they have got and the market that’s willing to pay for it,” Gaines said.

For Gaines, the key to optimal audience engagement is uniting data analytics with advertising activation.

“A lot of DMPs can do the analysis piece, but if you want to activate, it needs to feed into an ad exchange or ecosystem, and you then need to have direct integrations with these platforms,” she said. “That’s often the missing piece.

“A number [of advertisers] have started on the data journey by doing basic retargeting. When you work with a DMP, there are a lot more signals to tap into than just the last page a person looked at. For example, age, gender, volume, mobility of what they did, over what timeframes.

“We’ve all had that experience of looking at one pair of shoes then being followed by those everywhere. Advertisers need the full picture of that person to target effectively.”

As well as the work undertaken with Carsales, Audience 360 and Krux claim a recent campaign undertaken with Sydney-based Cadreon using their combined capabilities resulted in a 130 per cent increase in conversion rates.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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