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A New Age for Marketing

The convergence of the real and digital worlds is upon us, and marketers are scrambling to capitalize. Learn how some dealers are making sure auto retailers don’t miss out.

December 2011, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Jennifer Washington

The Internet might be where most car buyers do their shopping, but Andy Lapin believes recent advances in mobile technology will push the car-buying process back onto dealership lots. That’s why the chief architect behind Kelly Blue Book’s vehicle information site is keeping a close eye on the development of mobile augmented reality (MAR).

Once referred to as the holy grail for marketers, video game developers and cell phone makers, augmented reality is the overlay of virtual elements on a real-world image. An example would be the yellow first down line on football broadcasts. MAR takes this a step further by displaying those virtual overlays onto a mobile device. In dealership terms, that means car buyers will be able to kick the tires while being able to access anything from incentives to customer reviews.

“I’ll be able to point my phone at a car and it will recognize what that car is and be able to present information based on where I’m physically standing,” he says. “It’ll be kind of like a virtual tour guide.”

But even Lapin admits that MAR is at least five years away. There are only a handful of mobile phones on the market that are capable of delivering any form of MAR and only a slightly bigger handful of consumers who own them. But there are other technologies laying the groundwork for this reality. The most recognizable among them is the now-ubiquitous QR code.

Jim Levine (left), the dealership’s GM, worked with Tim Colbeck, president and COO of Saab Cars North America, and Bernie Moreno, founder of Collection Auto Group, to create the “Snap up a Saab” contest. The goal of the campaign was to help the 30-vehicle-a-month store sell 100 vehicles in four weeks. Vehicle orders were already streaming in after the first week of the contest.
Jim Levine (left), the dealership’s GM, worked with Tim Colbeck, president and COO of Saab Cars North America, and Bernie Moreno, founder of Collection Auto Group, to create the “Snap up a Saab” contest. The goal of the campaign was to help the 30-vehicle-a-month store sell 100 vehicles in four weeks. Vehicle orders were already streaming in after the first week of the contest.

Blazing the Trail

Fourteen million Americans scanned a QR code on their mobile device this past June, according to Internet marketing research company comScore. Marketers place the 2-D barcodes on advertisements and billboards in hopes that consumers will photograph them with their mobile device. And when they do, the barcode acts as a window to additional information about the brand.

Ben Lemieux, a telecoms analyst for Visiongain, a market research firm based in the United Kingdom, says QR codes are paving the way to MAR, which he says won’t make major gains until mid- to late 2013.

“[QR codes] are a precursor to MAR in that they will prepare consumers for the technology’s arrival,” he says, noting that MAR apps will immediately recognize what the user is looking at rather than waiting for a barcode to be scanned. “Although QR codes and the object recognition [technology] required for MAR apps are vastly different from a programming standpoint, the act of pointing a mobile device camera at an object to reveal onscreen information about it will be familiar from an end-user standpoint.”

Toyota was one of the first carmakers to test out QR codes, doing so during the New York Giants’ 2009 home opener as part of its “It’s a Good Time to Sign” campaign. Attendees of the game were given handouts outfitted with the 2-D barcodes, which they could then photograph to access the mobile site Toyota created for the campaign. The marketing strategy resulted in 9.2 percent fan engagement, which marketers proclaimed a huge success.

Toyota Financial Services also is giving QR codes a try, announcing last month that it is now placing the barcodes on billing statements to allow its customers to access their accounts. Dealerships are embracing the technology as well. The most recent example was Ohio’s Saab of North Olmsted, which launched a month-long contest that turned 400 residents and 100 of the dealership’s vehicles into rolling billboards.

“We’ve put [QR codes] in some print ads prior to the promotion, but this campaign was really the first big use of them,” says Jim Levine, the dealership’s general manager. “It was a big undertaking, though. I now have a third full-time job.”

Comment

  1. 1. Ed [ December 06, 2011 @ 04:26PM ]

    The best marketing channel for mobile right now is text and MMS. MMS or Multimedia Messaging is taking off quickly because its already supported on all Iphones and Smartphones. Basicaly this is texting with video and picture capabilities. So a customer can walk up to a car and instantly text for more info and dealermobi.com wil send a video, picture, ecard, coupon, or what ever you want to send them.

 

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