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Who Sold the Car? Attribution Needs Organized Data

“Marketing analytics and attribution are hot topics of discussion at larger dealer groups seeking to intelligently reduce budgets in a slowing sales climate.”


When digital marketing solutions were first introduced to franchise auto dealers 20 years ago, they were sold on the promise that digital advertising would offer their business clearer marketing ROI reports. Digital sales agents ridiculed and marginalized traditional media because it was not trackable.

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Fast forward to 2017 and dealership managers are still asking this question: “Which digital marketing investments are correlated to an increase in showroom traffic?” Dealership owners tell me they are looking for digital levers that can be increased or decreased to optimize their budget to sell more cars.

The good news is that auto industry tech companies are making some significant advances in answering this question.

Marketing analytics and attribution are hot topics of discussion at larger dealer groups seeking to intelligently reduce budgets in a slowing sales climate.

What is “Attribution”?

What do marketing technology (“MarTech”) companies mean by “attribution”? There are many definitions for the term, and many different approaches to answering which marketing investments align with an increase in sales.


The first generation of automotive attribution models will likely show dealers which investments are working best to increase sales and which have little impact. The second generation of automotive attribution models will drill down into the specific marketing investments (such as media buys, Websites and ad channels) that a consumer engaged with along their unique shopping and research journey.

The Foundation for Attribution Is Clean Data

Actionable automotive marketing insights and attribution will rely on:
• Standards for tracking consumer engagement and online activities
• Defined datasets that Website companies and MarTech companies collect
• An API for multi-vendor data management exchange
• Standards for actionable reporting metrics


Dealers who want to prepare for sales and multi-touch attribution insights need to make sure they are not throwing away valuable marketing data. Data that is not captured today cannot be collected and analyzed tomorrow.

Here are three items to review at your next marketing meeting:
1. Dealers should require their Website company to provide log files of all visitor traffic by IP address. This will allow companies specializing in digital attribution to map consumer advertising engagement with sales results.

2. Dealers must inspect all referral traffic to their Websites and confirm that proper Google UTM tags (the code attached to a custom URL for tracking purposes) are in place.


3. Dealers who want to leverage multi-touch attribution need to clean up their Google Analytics (GA) accounts. Nine out of 10 dealers I have reviewed do not have GA configured to capture consumer engagement data and all conversion channels.

Marketing Managers Unite

Dealership marketing managers need to become well versed in analytics and attribution models. Data disciplines must be put in place to fully leverage the insights that MarTech companies are bringing to market.

This is an exciting time to be in the automotive industry. Dealers need to find, invest in and use the proper tools to know which marketing investments accelerate vehicle sales and which do not.


Brian Pasch

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