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Study reveals influence of marketing via publisher sites on car buyers

Targeted commercial messages within premium automotive publisher sites can increase traffic to a brand’s website by 67%. That’s the key finding from a new white paper published today from independent digital intelligence and marketing consultancy, Sophus3.

The study, ‘Value Ad: the influence of digital advertising within the car buyer’s journey’, analysed 135 million visits (January to May 2018) to a group of seven premium UK automotive consumer publishing sites: Autocar, Auto Express, AutoTrader, CAR magazine, CarBuyer, Parkers and What Car?.

It measured the impact of six million advertising impressions served to one anonymous top five car brand and tracked a total of 10.5 million visits to its site.

Sophus3 said it is likely to be the largest ever study undertaken into the online car buying journey, both in terms of the number of consumers observed and the quantity of data processed, and revealed the key role these premium automotive publisher sites played throughout the entire process.

Scott Gairns, Sophus3’s managing director, said: “We analysed a record 570,000,000 data points from over 135 million premium automotive publisher visits, nearly six million ad impressions and 60 million visits to car brand websites. We believe that this ‘at scale’ approach is critical in achieving a true understanding of online behaviour and provides compelling evidence that digital display advertising can have significant impact on consumer behaviour.

“What has been really exciting about this study is that with our unique access to all car brands’ and automotive publishers’ websites, we have a full picture of car buyer behaviour online.

“The leading car brand involved in this study, the automotive publishers and their agencies took a risk to ask for this independent analysis of advertising effectiveness, but the results clearly show consumers engage with digital advertising.”

The study assessed a number of factors including the timeframe in which potential car buyers were exposed to advertising and when they visited the brand’s site.

It found that 177,000 (3%) consumers visited the website within a seven-day window of seeing the advertisement. However, over half (three million) went on to visit the site within 30 days.

Underpinning just how influential these publishers are in driving traffic to a brand, 42% per cent of all visits to the manufacturer’s website had first visited one of the seven sites, even without being prompted by advertising.

However, with the introduction of ads, this number increased significantly compared with the control group. 67% per cent of all visitors to the brand had first been exposed to its advertising messages on one of the publisher sites within a 30-day timeframe.

One of the most significant findings of the research, said Sophus3, was the effect that advertising had on a buyer’s likelihood to shop around. Over the last five years, the number of brands considered online by the in-market visitor has doubled, from an average of 2.5 to 5.9.

The study revealed that visitors to the premium publishers’ sites and those exposed to the brands’ advertising were far less likely to ‘wander’ to competitor sites. On average, they were 27% less likely to visit a competitor brand’s website in the following seven-day period – the crucial period when consumers are finalising their consideration short-list or even refining a final purchase choice.


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