How Kia unified its data strategy and drove consumers to their dream cars

The key to cutting through all the advertising clutter is serving the right message to the right people and understanding when, where, and how consumers interact on each channel. Sun Hur, manager of Kia Motors Corporation’s Media Innovation Team, shares how the auto giant brought its siloed campaign data together to gain deeper audience insights and a true measure of each ad’s impact.

With dealerships in 172 countries, Kia Motors has been connecting with millions of auto buyers around the world for nearly 75 years. But the way people buy cars today has evolved tremendously, particularly in the last decade.

Face-to-face conversations with our sales team used to be the best way for consumers to figure out which model was right for their needs. Nowadays, the research, browsing, and persuasion all happen as people search for reviews, watch YouTube videos, and visit websites to comparison shop — long before a dealership even enters the picture.

Our challenge: How do we influence car shoppers when we’re not sitting in a room with them? Can we build the same level of trust and understanding with our consumers, even without that face-to-face conversation?

We knew that our ecosystem of digital channels gives us real-time, direct data that lets us know what our customers care about and what they respond to. But uncovering these insights meant we had to first understand the right way to look at our data. So, before starting work on our campaign for the new Kia Sportage SUV, we worked on unifying our data to help us better connect with drivers and inspire them to take action.

Painting the full picture of the consumer journey

Previously, we used Display & Video 360 to buy ad space on YouTube and secured display and other kinds of online video inventory directly from different publishers. But this fragmented approach left us with snapshots of consumers’ behavior rather than a clear picture of their decision-making over time and across channels.

Our marketing, creative, media, and trading teams got together with our agency partners to explore how we could get a more comprehensive understanding of our consumers by combining our first-party data and existing campaign data. We discovered that consolidating our ad buys in Display & Video 360 could give us a better sense of what inspires auto buyers to go from dreaming to driving.

A streamlined media buy gives us a clearer view of what our audience finds engaging — whether that’s a Search ad they see in their first moments of research or a video they watch right before requesting a quote. And that’s a big deal for us.

A streamlined media buy gives us a clearer view of what our audience finds engaging. ... And that’s a big deal for us.

Redefining the metrics that matter

The next challenge was determining which metric was the most meaningful. We used to have different goals that were specific to each channel, like views for YouTube and click-through rates for Search. But regardless of when, where, and how people interact with us online, our main goal is always encouraging them to visit a dealership.

Before kicking off our Kia Sportage campaign, we redefined a conversion to mean any action that could influence a consumer’s decision to visit us in person — like going on a test drive, looking for a dealer on our website, downloading brochures, or requesting a quote — regardless of the channel.

By broadening our conversion goals, we set the foundation for a revamped measurement strategy. Once everyone on the team knew what to look for across different channels and devices, we were ready to use Google Campaign Manager to see how our ads impacted (the new) conversions in our upcoming campaign.

Test driving a data-driven campaign

We had a lot of rich data from our past campaigns in Latin America, so we decided to build on it with our Kia Sportage campaign. To start off, we stitched our existing campaign data together with our own first-party data by importing it all into Google Analytics. Then, we dug deeper into Audiences reports and reviewed our past Search campaigns to surface our consumers’ other interests (besides finding their next ride).

When we looked at how people used our website and what our most valuable consumers were interested in, we learned that most of them are pet lovers, thrill seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts — so we developed more than 100 personalized video and display ads for these affinity audiences.

An example of a video ad Kia Motors served to pet lovers in Latin America.

Then, we used audience solutions and ad sequencing to make sure we served the most relevant creative to the right people. We put ourselves in consumers’ shoes to anticipate how they might react to our video spots, and planned ways to follow up in case we didn’t pique their interest the first time around.

Here’s a taste of how we pulled that off: If a video featuring a few furry friends didn’t capture the attention of our pet lovers, we would follow up with a video that spoke to one of their other interests, such as this creative showcasing the Kia Sportage as the perfect companion for an outdoor adventure. If people visited our website after watching an ad, we served them creative that highlighted price, vehicle specs, and promotions.

With a clearer view of how people hopped across channels as they researched, we were able to see which creative and ad sequences kept people watching until the end of our story — and inspired them to walk into our dealerships.

Driving to worldwide success with data

After four months of running our campaign, we saw 12X the conversions at 6.5X the conversion rate year-over-year (YOY).

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Now that we’ve learned how we can pull insights from our data by using the right tools, we’re ready and eager to roll out a similar approach in other markets like India and Russia. After all, new technology enables us to extract human insights from data so we can better connect with people in more approachable, engaging ways. The way we’ve always strived to in our dealerships.

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