Digital marketing trends reshaping auto retail

Québec’s Law 25 is a prelude for what’s coming up in Canada, while CDP (customer data platform) is more than just cooler talk among digital marketers. These trends are set to reshape the industry, as consumer data collection takes on new meaning in 2024 and beyond.

One of the most impactful digital marketing trends currently reshaping auto retail in Québec, and set to do the same in Canada, is the regulation of how personal information from consumers is collected and managed.

Previously known as Bill 64, Law 25 was adopted by the National Assembly of Québec in September 2021. The implementation of several significant updates came about approximately one year later, helping to strengthen privacy protections for consumers in the province — while also imposing responsibilities on businesses that collect/handle personal information.

“It basically regulates how companies, retailers, and all industries are managing personal information from consumers,” said Louis-Yves Cloutier, CEO and President of
360.Agency. “This changes how dealers have to do their digital marketing.”

“A consent management platform allows a customer to decide if they want to be tracked or not on the different digital marketing platforms.” — Louis-Yves Cloutier, CEO
and President of 360.Agency

He said one of the things that this type of regulation brings to the table is the fact that consumers now have the ability to give consent to how businesses — including dealerships — track them. As a result, companies in Québec (and those that do business in the province) must now have a consent management platform on their website.

“A consent management platform allows a customer to decide if they want to be tracked or not on the different digital marketing platforms, such as Facebook, X, Google, and so on,” said Cloutier. “So a dealer today is losing some tracking capabilities that they used to have in order to have a very targeted marketing initiative.”

“And it’s going to come to Canada,” added Cloutier. “It’s been going on in Europe for years.”

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became applicable as of May 25, 2018, in all of its member states. And in November 2020, California passed Proposition 24, also known as The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which added new privacy protections for consumers that echo the GDPR and likely proved influential to Québec’s Law 25.

Cloutier said dealers must now create marketing strategies that can reach out to more people in a less targeted way, or use their first-party data. This means ensuring they use an agency “that can use data that comes from the CRM as well, in order to track consumers in a targeted way.”

The adjustment is impactful to the point that Dominic Sigouin, President and CEO of Noahvik Consultants, describes the current marketing shift as something that has not yet been seen, felt, or even lived by most Canadians. By this, he means Canadians who have not experienced the impacts of a new bill that will be adopted in the coming years.

“For example, when you visit a website, now (consumers have the option to) accept cookies, refuse cookies, or personalize their choice,” said Sigouin.

When consumers refuse the cookie, businesses lose that data tracking.
Sigouin said dealers will probably see a 40-50 per cent decline in the number of website visitors that typically would accept the tracking, or were never given the choice. To put it another way, instead of having something like 10,000 visitors collected and measured by Google Analytics, there will probably be about 5,000.

“Everything we track and the amount of information and data we collect is shifting a lot,” said Sigouin, adding that everyone that does marketing, such as retargeting, will now have to change the way they do business.

“All those pop ups for cookie consent we see on every site (in Québec) — they’re not everywhere, and they’re not all well installed and configured to the law’s expectations,” said Sigouin. “Within the next year, we’ll see that rollout, that implementation.”

At that point, dealerships will begin to see the impact that these changes will have on their marketing strategies, and perhaps their business.

Beyond Québec, there is another trend being observed: it’s called CDP, otherwise known as a customer data platform.

“I don’t think you probably can get away from a conversation with a marketer right now in automotive without hearing the word CDP or the acronym CDP being thrown around,” said Erin Richmond, Chief Revenue Officer at sMedia (a software company based in Regina, Sask.).

Asked about CDP, Richmond described it as using your data to leverage or to make your marketing smarter and improve your customer experience. As to how that differentiates or compares in any way to the situation in Québec, with website cookies and tracking, Richmond said
first-party data uses the CRM as opposed to just relying on website tracking.

“Instead of putting a cookie on a dealership’s website, you’re able to take your customer list, remove identifiable characteristics or PI, and push that to your ad platforms in a way that’s compliant with the laws and regulations in place,” said Richmond.

She said the approach needs to be further embraced.

“Dealers will probably see a 40-50 per cent decline in the number of website visitors that typically would accept the tracking, or were never given the choice.” — Dominic Sigouin, President and CEO of Noahvik Consultants

Richmond also explained that dealerships have had access to data for a long time, but that this data may have been very siloed. She does not believe marketers have gotten to the forefront of the potential that a CDP or first-party data offers. “But we have an opportunity to remove those silos and really get a dealership’s customer data to work for them.”

This means getting that data to not only provide better after sales service and marketing for dealerships, but using it to leverage that very information to find new customers. For Richmond, any partner in the digital marketing space who is not helping dealers do this right now is “probably a little bit behind the eight ball.”

She added that shifts in regulations and laws that impact digital marketing are not new, and that marketers have always adapted to changing technology. “It actually has gotten smarter and helped us to do better.”

Overall, Richmond concludes that if a dealership is working with someone who understands the space and they are giving them good information, “then they’re in good hands.”

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