Can Facebook Ads Sell Cars? The 193 Day Experiment

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“Social media advertising is great for brand building, but can it actually bring real people to our lots?”

This was the challenge one luxury automotive brand manager proposed to his team.

We had the opportunity to help that team try and answer this question, and after about six months we have an answer: Yes.

How We Used ‘Shadow Data’ to Approach the Challenge

How we used ‘shadow data’ to approach the challenge

Consumers leave digital traces of themselves everywhere they go, even when they’re not actively engaging online (aka shadow data).

Scary? Just a little bit. Useful? Absolutely.

To track physical visits to dealerships, we needed to do two things:

  1. Collect mobile location data provided by any one of 20,000 apps that might be installed on a consumer’s smartphone.
  2. Manually geo-fence dealerships so that whenever a consumer walks across a lat/long coordinate with their phone in their pocket or purse, they are recorded as visiting that location.

With these two components in place, data was collected from select metro areas in the upper northeast region of the United States, including New York, Boston, and Washington D.C.

This data was then filtered to focus specifically on consumers that had visited any of our client’s competitors’ dealerships.

Mapping ‘Shadow Data’ to Social Advertising

After three months we had a sizeable list of consumers who were assumed to have a high likelihood of being in the market for a new luxury car.

The question that remained was, “can we use social advertising to drive consumers to take a test drive, and ultimately buy a car?”

After mapping mobile phone IDs to available social media profiles, we ended up with a list of 2,160 consumers that could be targeted on Facebook with ads.

Mobile Phone Device ID Mapping

List uploaded and ready, we served ads to this select group that focused specifically on enticing them to come in for a test drive.


So what did we find out?

2,160 In-Market Consumers

6% Conversion to Foot Traffic for Brand

Identified as being in-market and visiting competitors’ dealerships 115 of the 2,160 in-market consumers visited a dealership after being served an ad

Out of the audience of 2,160 that had visited one of our client’s competitors’ dealerships, 115, or roughly 6%, visited one of our client’s dealerships after being served ads on Facebook.

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Want to learn more?

Watch the video or download this helpful overview: Social Advertising That Sells Cars

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