DEALERS and car makers face yet more disruption next year as Google ends the practice of easily identifying potential customers through their internet browsing activity.

That’s the warning from automotive content and ecommerce experts, Autovia, who believe that the motor retail industry has yet to wake up to the coming challenge.

Many marketing departments and dealer promotion businesses use computer codes called cookies to help identify consumers who are in the market for a car, so that they can target them with advertising.

But Google is changing the way it allows online personal tracking and ending the use of so called ‘3rd party cookies‘ on its platforms – one of the ways that the motor industry uses to provide potential buyers with offers and information.

However, experts at Autovia believe that the sector has so far been slow to recognise the change, which will impact all businesses from the beginning of next year, and is now urging dealers and manufacturers to begin creating alternative approaches to reach potential customers.

Coming hot on the heels of the Covid-19 crisis, which has driven even more car-buying activity online, the reduction of 3rd party cookies in eight months time threatens to put smaller dealers in particular, who may not understand the change, at a significant disadvantage.

We have been surprised at how little comment there has been in the automotive industry to date, considering that this is one of the biggest changes to hit the world of digital marketing for many years,” said John Webb, Managing Director, Automotive Data, Demand Generation & Commercial Operations at Autovia.

These changes will present real challenges, in particular for those businesses who do not enjoy the kind of scale that enables them to build new digital tools and methods to engage with customers. The fact is that the option of attracting highly engaged car buyers directly will be made more challenging by Google’s decision.

Autovia, which has a team dedicated full-time to filling the gap that will be left by the move away from 3rd party cookies, warns that many dealers and OEMs will find their ability to target individual internet users significantly impacted – and those who aren’t investigating new strategies could find themselves left behind when the changes are implemented.

Apple has also recently announced changes to the way companies and brands can target individuals through apps on their devices, adding to the movement for more transparency in digital marketing and building the urgency for businesses to find new ways to engage with buyers beyond their own websites

John Webb said: “I know how tough this challenge is because we are already working flat out on it – and we have the luxury of a large expert team dedicated to nothing else. But the lack of discussion around this change in the automotive industry suggests that many could be caught out and see a reduction in their marketing leads.

Dealers, for example, should be asking their marketing partners and platforms how they plan to respond to the degradation of 3rd party cookies and what solutions they’re putting in place to accommodate these changes. Key will be working with partners who have explicitly opted-in databases of in-market car buyers that they can target, rather than relying on the current ‘follow-me’ practices of re-targeting applied by many.

There is little doubt that some manufacturers and biggest dealer groups will already be honing their future strategies to make the best of this new world, seeing the bonus of an opportunity to get ahead of less nimble competitors when the door closes on most 3rd party cookies.

This aspect of the digital marketing landscape will only continue to become more challenging and those who have benefited from re-targeting 3rd party cookies must now start thinking about new ways of boosting the connections with their key audiences beyond their own websites.

Main Photo Credit: Burst, Pexels

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