The rise of the connected car has been swift. With most auto manufacturers beginning to offer apps on the in-car dashboard, integrations with voice assistants, and swipe navigation, the latest cars on the market seem more like software platforms that people just happen to drive. In the United States, connected car penetration is estimated at 38.8 percent in 2018, a figure that is expected to grow to more than 80 percent by 2022.
Of course, the marketing world has noticed. But to date, there’s been very little consensus on how exactly marketers should be adapting their thinking for what promises to be a profound shift in consumer access. No doubt, connected cars will change the world of marketing. But as with the car technology itself, the marketing play will be a slow evolution, not a static opportunity that can be plugged into the broader marketing equation or “customer journey” overnight.
It’s fun to speculate on the long-term and how the screen inside the car might become one of the most important screens in our lives. And no doubt, when autonomous vehicles become the new normal, marketers are going to be falling all over themselves to figure out the myriad things they can do with the additional screen time for everyday for consumers. For example, Apple recently filed a patent application for virtual reality experiences inside self-driving cars, sparking a good deal of speculation into the seemingly limitless possibilities such technology could enable.
But we’re simply not there yet. Right now, even in existing connected cars like Teslas, with their big screens, the advertising opportunity is limited. It’s simply not cool to be flashing ads that could distract drivers while they’re focused on the road. That said, while we await the autonomous future of car travel, there’s still an opportunity for marketers to incorporate connected cars into their strategies right now. Marketers can do so by tapping into the ever-growing data coming from connected cars to more fully round out their understandings of consumers and provide better experiences. This data allows for profiles that can include location data and retail proximity, travel patterns.
According to recent data from Screen6, connected cars have already started to yield useful insights for marketers. According to aggregate data, for every connected car we incorporated into a cross-device graph, we were able to match an average of 3.9 other devices. The data showed that 43 percent of the cars were connected to a mobile device, with 17 percent connected to a PC and 10 percent connected to a tablet. Not surprisingly, our data shows that connected cars are most active during rush hour, peaking at 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. We’ve also seen that PCs connected to cars are being used more after work, so it’s likely that these devices represent personal computers vs. work computers.
In essence, a connected car is like any other connected device. A connected car is simply a car that is equipped with internet access, and often a wireless local area network. This allows the car to share internet access with other devices both inside and outside the vehicle. This connectivity means there’s an identifier for connected cars that can be incorporated into cross-device graphs, and this integration provides insights into consumer behavior that was previously veiled to marketers.
Attitudes are also changing from car ownership to a more flexible, fluid approach to driving. As the auto market evolves from individually owned cars to shared automobiles, the marketing potential will explode. Data points and patterns like this will be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the insights that connected cars can deliver to marketers as they look to round out their cross-device understanding of consumers. While the future of land travel is likely to evolve significantly over the next two decades, marketers need not sit and wait to begin evolving their strategies alongside the connected car.