Category Archives: Customer acquisition

Empowering retailers with consumer insight

TLA will soon be rolling out an enhanced data view to provide retailers with more consumer information, supporting sales efforts.

As the UK’s largest provider of sales-qualified consumer leads to the automotive industry, we speak with around 1000 in-market car and van buyers every day, qualifying their enquiries and guiding their next vehicle purchase. During the course of these conversations, we collect a range of information about each consumer, above and beyond that required by our clients.

When receiving 3rd party leads, however, retailers have historically received a restricted dataset due to field and integration restrictions created by the multitude of processing, CRM and DMS systems that work together to deliver that lead. As a result, much of this additional contextual data has not previously been leveraged by our clients.

We strongly believe that this data can help to empower the retailer salesperson, enabling them to tailor their response and drive an improved consumer experience. For consumers who are in the information search or, in particular, the alternative evaluation stage of their buying journey, a strong retailer experience can be very impactful in helping them make a purchase decision.

With that in mind, we will soon be rolling out our enhanced consumer view, available exclusively – at no additional cost – for all Platform X clients.

What is the enhanced consumer view?

The enhanced view is a sales support interface that will be accessible via a web link that TLA pass through with every lead generated. On opening the link, retailers will have access to an enhanced view, encompassing all of the data that TLA has collected in the course of its digital and verbal interactions with the consumer. This requires use of an existing “notes” field or the addition of a single new field to CRM and dealer management systems, overcoming the time and effort required in adding new fields to house the additional and ever-growing dataset.

The interface will also include in-built communication options that retailers can use to engage with the consumer via their preferred channel. Available channels will initially include SMS, email and a live chat option, with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in the roadmap. All communication will be done natively within the interface and will allow for engagement via multiple channels.

The key driver of this activity for TLA is alignment. With the increasing fragmentation of the media landscape, retailers must remain aligned with consumers wherever they can. The data that TLA provides will help create a more complete view of the consumer, allowing retailers the opportunity for a better contact rate, improved engagement and, ultimately, a higher rate of conversion. The current circumstances demand effective handling of every lead, and we believe that this feature empowers retailers to do just that.

This is just one of the features designed for retailer empowerment that TLA will be adding to Platform X in the coming weeks and months, and follows our announcement of the availability of TLA’s remote telephony service to Platform X clients and partners.

Look out for more new features in the very near future!

Best regards,

Ed Clark
Chief Product Officer, TLA

There is still demand out there from new car buyers

Engaging with up to 600,000 consumers per year across some of the UK’s biggest publishers, TLA is uniquely positioned to monitor consumer behavioural trends.

Antony Neill, Head of Data Insight at TLA, talks through some of the key consumer trends we have observed through our interaction with consumers in the past week.

The value of consumer acquisition remains – especially in challenging economic conditions

With the UK now officially in lockdown, we have seen dealer groups shut up shop across the country, closing off the bricks-and-mortar sales channel that automotive consumers have become so familiar with. There is consensus across the market that consumer demand is set to soften significantly, and brands have set about assessing their marketing spend in an effort to optimise and cut costs.

Brands must, however, ensure that they continue to invest in consumer acquisition during these challenging periods, even where there is no immediate mechanism to sell those consumers a vehicle, at least through the dealer channel.

China – as the only nation to begin its emergence from its COVID-19 epidemic – offers reason for hope. Jim Holder’s recent article suggested that online demand for cars “boomed” during the lockdown period in China, with e-commerce channels growing significantly during the period to fulfil that demand. Tesla has shown that that the direct-to-consumer approach can work in automotive – albeit for an offering that is arguably more consumer technology product than vehicle – and most brands in the UK do have an ecommerce presence, but TLA’s consumer research tells a different story: the majority of consumers remain on the fence about the prospect of making such a significant financial commitment completely through non-contact channels.

We must also remember that not all demand is set to disappear. Consumers approaching the end of PCP deals, for example, may find themselves in-market for a new vehicle by necessity, rather than desire. TLA is seeing this first-hand where, regardless of market conditions, there is a baseline of consumers that continue to request guidance and assistance from our in-house contact centre in buying their next vehicle, with a short purchase timeframe of 1-2 months, the result of their existing deal coming to an end.

What does this mean for brands?

Acquisition and engagement are key. There is plentiful research that shows how brand loyalty significantly falls during times of economic hardship, and TLA’s first-party data concurs, with more than 50% of consumers suggesting that they would seek out another brand should their first-choice brand not be able to fulfil their sale. There is value in developing a healthy, engaged pipeline of consumers that can be nurtured to a sale-ready position, and eventually released to the dealer channel when normal service resumes. Engaging early means that brands can develop a relationship with these consumers before the brand-switching tendencies that the current economic environment encourages manifest.

China’s gradual emergence offers a positive story on this front too. Automotive News Europe suggested earlier this week that 93% of new car dealerships in China have re-opened, two months after the imposition of lockdown conditions in Hubei province, after extraordinary, and ultimately successful, efforts to contain the virus. While early reports suggest that footfall remains low, the point stands: dealerships could be back sooner than it currently seems, at which point brands must be ready to capitalise on pent-up demand. This has been referred to elsewhere as “revenge spending” – the point where isolated consumers, starved of the opportunity to consume, suddenly embrace the opportunity to spend again, and do so at a greater volume and ferocity than pre-isolation.

In times of economic hardship, marketing costs are often the first to be cut, with brands viewing them as expendable and correlated with times of success. But that’s just it: marketing is not just correlated with success – it has a causal relationship.

“Marketing helps drive commerce. Marketers have an opportunity to give consumers a reason to spend deals, products, services even when we are bunkered up and hunkered down” writes Bradley Johnson of AdAge.

For all the reasons above, there must be a psychological shift to view marketing as a “good cost” in times of economic downturn. Spending, even when times are tough, is essential for both serving consumers with necessity-led demand, and for preparing brands to make a strong recovery when the time eventually comes.

2018 in Review: A year to remember for TLA

In 2018, we earned independent recognition, secured new clients, developed cutting-edge technology and raised a significant sum of money for charity. It was a special year for everyone connected with TLA.

2019 is well underway and our focus is firmly on the future, but it would be remiss of us not to recap on some of our biggest achievements of the last 12 months and say a massive thank you to everyone who has helped make them happen.


One of the most pleasing aspects of 2018 was the recognition we received from some of the UK’s biggest and most respected organisations. In the early part of the year, we were named in the Financial Times’ league table of the 1,000 fastest-growing companies in Europe. We featured featuring as the 56th highest-placed UK business in the FT 1000 and 363rd overall.

Soon after, we were invited to the Northern Tech Awards by Tech Nation to discover where we had placed in its Northern Tech 100 table. Our growth rate over the last three years saw us named as the 5th fastest-growing technology business in the North of the UK and the top-ranking company with Liverpool headquarters.

We followed those up with what are arguably the two of the most prestigious tech industry league tables in the country. We were named as the 50th fastest-growing tech company in the UK as part of The Sunday Times’ Tech Track 100 and 38th in Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50.

All four represent great recognition of our continued growth and commitment to driving performance through technology.


Regular visitors to the TLA blog will have seen a lot of GDPR-themed content from us over the last 12 months – and with good reason.

As a company that generates, processes and distributes large volumes of consumer data, we have a huge responsibility to make sure we take an ethical and accountable approach. It’s a responsibility we have always taken seriously, but there was no doubting the ground-breaking nature of GDPR, which came into effect in May.

Our proactive approach begun almost two years ago, ensuring company-wide and top-down buy-in and taking decisive action to go beyond the regulation’s requirements. This included updates to processes, policies and technology that have all helped to make us a stronger business and partner to our clients.

The result was a GDPR programme that allowed clients to confidently continue with their lead generation campaigns, generating incremental sales at a critical time. Furthermore, our programme received great publicity, not least of all for the independent endorsement we received from ASE Global.

ASE’s report concluded: “What’s particularly impressive is that the work undertaken by The Lead Agency goes far beyond what the new legislation requires.”

Cutting-edge technology

One of the most exciting things for an employee at TLA is the commitment to continuous improvement. Our value ‘go beyond limits and expectations’ is something you see daily throughout the business as we push to be the best we can be as individuals and collectively.

We never top looking for ways to take our technology to the next level to provide a better service to clients and consumers. And in 2018, that resulted in us launching our new Landing Page Builder, Publisher Portal, Client Portal, Policy Management Portal and Quality Control Portal – all of which have led to improvements across internal processes and client results.

The biggest tech evolution however was our customer acquisition platform, which we’ve been working on over the second half of the year.

Built on the principles of transparency, effectiveness, simplicity and compliance, this new platform will transform how businesses generate incremental sales when it launches in 2019. Watch this space!


We’re passionate about creating opportunity. But it doesn’t end with our clients or staff. We commit to giving back to a worthy cause every year.

In 2018, we set an ambitious target of raising £10,000 for the NSPCC – a fantastic charity that deserves a lot of support. To achieve our goal, TLA and friends took part in a series of mammoth endurance challenges, including the London Marathon, Man v Lakes and a London to Paris Cycle.

We are immensely proud to have raised a whopping £10,450.40 and cannot thank the people who have donated enough. It genuinely means a lot to everyone here.

And finally…

We would like to extend that thank you to everyone who has played a part in what we were able to achieve in 2018 – including our clients, partners, suppliers and teammates. None of it would be possible without your continued trust, support and commitment – and for that we are immensely grateful.

We hope all of you enjoyed a great 2018 year and have made a successful start to the new year. We’re excited to see what it will bring.

Acquiring the Driving Generation: 8 important stats about millennial new car buyers

Within two years, 40% of new car purchases will be made by millennials – a generation of early adopters and natives of the digital world.

As competition for market share in the new car market remains fierce, engaging this lucrative audience is vital for advertisers and agencies.

So, who are they and how do we reach them?

For starters, let’s clarify who we’re talking about. Millennials – or Generation Y, as they are also known – refers to people born between 1980 and 1996 (give or take two or three years depending on your source). They follow Generation X (1965-1976) and baby boomers (1946-1964) and precede Generate Z (1997 to present day).

The Driving Generation

Millennials are becoming known in the industry as ‘the driving generation’.

According to a study by MTV, millennials drive 72% more miles than baby boomers, and 18% more than Gen X. Spending longer on the road is perhaps why millennials are reported to have little interest in ‘flashy’ cars, but instead are in market for reliability and practicality.

Compared to baby boomers, millennials tend to take longer to decide on what car to buy, an average of 15.7 vs 16.9 weeks. The Gen Y/millennial consumer also considers a wider range of vehicles during their research. This suggests that their decision is malleable and can therefore be influenced, if approached at the right time during their buying journey, to ultimately find the car that is right for them.

Despite the lengthier period in market, millennials are keen for convenience. This generation grew up in a time when convenience was emphasised, whether that be via increased digitalisation, technological advances or innovation – simplification and convenience is a consistent theme.

What do your millennial consumers expect?

Millennials have grown up in a world of choice-paralysis. Numerous products from numerous companies and numerous ways of paying for them.

Ultimately, because of their wide range of options, it is essential to guide your millennial consumer along the right path and ensure that the process is as simple, easy and accessible as possible.

Quality of service and products are of high importance to millennial consumers. With the rapid speed of online connectivity, news can travel fast. Thus, meaning that despite how long it may have taken to build it up, brand reputation can be crushed quickly, and perhaps unjustly, due to poor customer experience during the buying phase.

The typical millennial car buyer expects a transparent approach to business proceedings. Clarity of information requests and honesty is important to consumers during a high-stake, high-expense purchase, such as buying a car. The consumer expects a good standard of customer service, and failing that, a quick response to minimise disappointment and rectify any issues.

The growth of digitalisation

Third-party sites are the most commonly-used platforms for automotive shopping, with 78% of shoppers using them as part of their search.

Furthermore, 88% of millennials take to the internet to research their car purchase. Exploring the reliability and practicality of cars is much more accessible and easier when done at the click of a mouse, with the immediate response of a chatbot.

The growth of digitalisation and connectivity has also allowed social media platforms and innovative technology to form an empowered generation of new customers. Millennials are demanding cars that are stylish and practical, with adequate tech features that will help them to stay connected.

This audience has grown up in an age where technology continues to improve at a rapid rate. They are, as a result, quick to embrace digital innovation, giving a distinct advantage to brands that lead the way.

Ultimately, there are big opportunities for advertisers and agencies that can meet millennials’ technological expectations and provide a credible, transparent and quality service.

Communicating with millennials

With 59% of millennials following a brand on social media before purchasing a product, and 81% viewing their twitter account daily, it’s a sure indicator that social media is one of the most effective platforms for targeting millennials. It therefore comes as no surprise that millennials are twice more likely as any other generation to turn to social, rather than phone or email, when communicating with a brand.

It’s clear that millennials prefer to engage online, whether that’s via social media or digital messengers, such as chatbots. When it comes to chatbots, 60% of millennials have used them, 70% of those report positive experiences, and of the millennials who have not used them, more than half say they are interested in using them. Chatbots link seamlessly with millennials’ expectations, bringing instant gratification, conversational engagement, digital connectivity, and convenience.

Through pioneering the use of innovative tech and intelligent targeting through popular digital channels, we can target the consumer with the right message at the right time. By adapting the wording and approach based on the consumer, website they are visiting and product of interest, we can tap into the buying journey of the millennial car buyer.

8 stats you need to know about millennial new car buyers

  1. By 2020, 40% of new car buyers will be millennials (Brandwatch)
  2. Millennials drive 72% more than Baby Boomers, and 18% more than Gen X (Advantage Tec)
  3. Millennials tend to take longer to decide what car to buy, an average of 16.9 vs 15.7 weeks compared to Baby Boomers (V12 Data)
  4. 88% of millennials use the internet during the research and shopping process when buying a car (Brandwatch)
  5. 56% of millennials say they would rather clean their homes than negotiate with a car dealer (V12 Data)
  6. 59% of millennials follow a brand on social media before purchasing a product (SproutSocial)
  7. 81% of millennials view their twitter account daily (SproutSocial)
  8. 60% of millennials have used chatbots, 70% of those report positive experiences, and of the millennials who have not used them, more than half say they are interested in using them. (Forbes)

Learn more about how our technology has made us a market leader in digital customer acquisition.


New Car Lead Generation: Ignore customer emotion at your peril – 5 takeaways to maximise the performance of your campaigns

Understanding the emotional rollercoaster of buying a new car and how customers are feeling during every micro-moment of their journey will transform your campaign performance.

Car manufacturers are undoubtedly the experts in understanding the primary triggers which bring a consumer ‘in-market’ for a new car – from family lifecycle events (some of us have had to morph from boy racer to safety conscious family man, with bags of room for child seats and a dog) to technological innovation and efficiencies. (One manufacturer even went as far as to identify 72 separate triggers and uses them in campaign creative!)

Despite this, Deloitte claim that a staggering 85% of car buyers do NOT think that they purchased their perfect car. How is this possible?

Put simply, researching a new car is over-whelming, emotionally draining and consumers are still wary of dealerships and indeed, the manufacturer brands.

In a study by Nationwide, 38% of respondents claimed that negotiating with a dealer was the most painful part of buying a new car. 11% felt that working out affordability was the main headache and 19% felt that financing the car was the main pain point.

In the same study, respondents claimed that buying a new car is just as stressful as preparing tax returns, jury duty and public speaking!

Three months. 900 digital micro-moments.

The various stages of the buyer decision-making process have been well documented. Although the latest research suggests there is no such thing as a traditional funnel. Instead, consumers flip between them over an average of three months:

  • What are the best options?
  • Which is right for me?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Where should I buy it?
  • Am I getting the best deal?

Google recently added to the research by mapping out typical user journeys over three months for consumers looking to purchase a new car. It used the example of Stacy, whose journey included a staggering 900 digital touchpoints or micro-moments in her path to finally selecting and buying her new car.

Interestingly, only 20% were with manufacturer websites and only 8% we were with dealerships. This means that over 70% of Stacy’s research took place elsewhere and, as we have seen above, it was probably a highly stressful experience.

Stacy’s consideration set went from 14 brands she explored at the top of the funnel down to six brands she compared in some detail, leaving her with a decision between two brands and her ultimate purchase.

14 brands across 900 micro-moments over three months – and only a 15% chance of making the right decision. How depressing.

There is a better way!

There will be as many as 2,500,000 new car sales in 2018. Excluding fleet, that’s potentially over 1m consumers who may have a similar experience as Stacy.

Billboards on motorways, the ads on trains and TV adverts all continue to have their place. But, when it comes to digital budgets, there is a more effective way than scatter-gunning display ads or relying on the micro-moments that take place on manufacturer websites or dealership sites via search or paid social.

Here are The Lead Agency’s 5 take-aways that will improve your digital new car lead generation campaigns:

  1. Test using triggers in ad copy and CTAs – search is absolutely still the strongest signal of intent but as Google’s research has shown, our search terms don’t always give away what our trigger is
  2. Brand is one of the least important elements for consumers during their research (premium brands aside)– they are much more interested in value for money, features and the opinion of their friends and family
  3. Most consumers decide which car is right for them BEFORE they research whether or not they can afford it – yet a lot of the first touch messaging is around financing
  4. We’re dealing with people, they aren’t aware that they are in a funnel or a target market! Let’s start producing copy that addresses the emotions and stress they are experiencing just by looking for a new car, and ways to remove it! One in five car buyers feel they are being confronted with too many deals
  5. Nearly half of all respondents in Deloitte’s study claimed they changed their mind about the make of car they wanted AT LEAST once during the buying journey… which means there’s plenty of conquest opportunity out there

Written by Justin Thorne, Head of Digital at The Lead Agency.

Enjoyed this content? Then why not discover more practical advice and insight here: ‘8 customer-centric tactics to dramatically increase lead quality and performance

Advanced Lead Generation – 8 customer-centric tactics to dramatically increase lead quality and performance

Are you frustrated by the inefficiency and low quality of third-party leads?

Trawling through the haystack of high volume raw leads to find the proverbial needle of an in-market consumer can be an exhausting challenge any sales team faced with a challenging short-term target.

But in a crowded-market place, with competitors vying for attention across multiple digital screens, connecting with real potential customers as they research their next purchase is vital for incremental sales growth.

Lead Generation can – and does – provide a cost-effective and efficient route to new customers. Just not in using the traditional high-volume, low-quality approach.

‘Volume and quality are not mutually exclusive’

At the crux of every lead generation campaign, the primary goal is to connect with the consumer. But too often the need for volume drives organisations further and further away from the consumer’s needs, wants and expectations.

But volume and quality are not mutually exclusive. Advanced lead generation goes beyond traditional lead gen at every stage of the process to reach more consumers, engage more meaningfully and qualify thoroughly to generate high quality, qualified in-market consumer leads at scale.

It does so by focusing on the customer from the outset and maintaining that focus throughout every stage of the acquisition process.

We have identified eight steps you can take right now that will dramatically improve lead quality and campaign performance.

  1. Purpose – Dig down into the root of what problem you’re trying to solve. This is where you will see the biggest success – aligning your expectations with consumer needs will harness quality from campaign inception.
  2. Track all interactions – Understanding all consumer touchpoints will allow better optimisation of activity further down the line. Without the visibility of where a consumer is in their decision cycle, it’s almost impossible to drive quality.
  3. Acquisition – Qualify consumers from the outset. Testing multiple digital channels, optimising accordingly and focusing on what drives quality at the first touch point will yield strong results further down the line. Deep and purposeful questioning, which adds value to the interaction, will ensure only quality leads are fed into the top of the funnel.
  4. Optimisation – Evaluate all user journeys within the decision cycle and understand at an intricate level what is/isn’t driving quality consumers. From this you can take appropriate actions to capitalise on the opportunity or alternatively fix the issues. Whether this be reprogramming or tailoring the language used for questions asked over the phone to looking at the what imagery drives engagement in the digital channels, it’s imperative to have an ongoing optimisation framework.
  5. Qualification – Re-engaging with the consumer through the appropriate communication channel, whether this be on the Phone, through Email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Live Chat service (etc.) can have a significant impact on lead quality. Understanding that live consumer interaction is the key to driving quality! This is the one opportunity to get real-time feedback on specific consumer demands but also shape expectations from the brand. It truly is the integral piece of connecting brands and consumers.
  6. Nurture – An acquired lead is always valuable, regardless of where the consumer is in their decision cycle. The real magic is how to move a consumer along their journey from consideration to purchase. Often the tendency is to focus on consumers at the final point in the decision cycle. It’s important to remember that lead times between consideration and purchase can vary based on the actual size of the purchase. Consumers are different, operate and think differently and take different lengths of time to reach their decisions. It’s important to be there at every stage in their cycle, this will engender trust and help produce lead quality when the consumer is ready to pull the trigger.
  7. Re-evaluation – It’s important to drive understanding of the activity, gain feedback and iterate on what could be working better. Can new solutions be developed to help alleviate an issue exposed within the user journey? Tackle any problems head on and lead quality will be ensured.
  8. Evaluate customer lifetime value – A lead should not be thought of as just a lead. This is a person, who may/may not be ready to make their purchase at the point of when the lead is passed over. Working with the brand to ensure that the lead goes into the appropriate user journey on the brand side is equally paramount to ensuring quality. Understanding whether the consumer needs to go into a nurture programme or is ready to pull the trigger immediately will have long-term quality benefits.

Written by Paul Court, Head of Performance Marketing at The Lead Agency.

To discover how advanced lead generation can support your goals, contact us today.

TLA extends range of lead types beyond ‘new car retail’

Over the last 16 years, The Lead Agency has predominantly served the automotive industry with new car retail leads.

But recent changes within the industry, economy and the government initiatives have seen a steady rise in clients requesting a broader range of lead types. As the market has changed, we have found users looking for new ways to interact with manufacturers around a vehicle purchase; TLA are using lead types to adapt to the contemporary consumer.

New lead types offer us, and our manufacturing and agency partners, the broadest coverage across user interest and allows the user a tailored service around their car-buying needs.

While new car leads remain as important as ever, we’ve invested time, effort and money to expand our channels so that we cater for the needs of our client base. These lead types will allow us to produce higher quality, direct leads that help clients hit their most valued KPIs. The following lead types are now offered to support dealers with vehicle sales across all their channels.

Approved Used Vehicle

As financing a new vehicle becomes a more expensive prospect many users are turning to second-hand options, but they are still looking for the reliability and reassurance of a new vehicle.

Our sites and contact method allow us to promote the benefits of buying a used vehicle through the manufacturer’s scheme. This lead type allows us to engage users on a wider range of options and will help retailers get used vehicles off their forecourts.

Fleet & Business

We attract customers who are in-market to buy an individual company/business vehicle or a fleet of company vehicles. The Lead Agency has long-prided itself on its ability to connect with small and medium enterprises that fly under the radar of the larger fleet schemes in the UK.

Purchasing a new vehicle through a business is an attractive prospect and we can give users the information they need from our clients to make the right decision.

Commercial Vehicles

Customers engage with us in view of finding the perfect new commercial van. Each potential purchaser is unique, and have their own requirements for a working vehicle.

This can be a large amount of data to process through usual channels, but our contact centre allows us to listen to user’s needs and match them with the best commercial vehicle and deal. 

Retail Leads (new car)

We are still very focused on new car retail leads and are dedicated to supporting this channel and the dealers by driving the highest converting leads in the market. We are investing in new technologies to help drive, qualify and assist in converting these leads. The interest in these areas will only continue to grow as our offering diversifies across multiple channels.

All the lead types outlined above get the same level of lead confirmation, nurturing and qualification treatment via our in-house contact centre and delivered as requests for brochures, test drives or quotes.

If you would like to discuss any of the above or would like a forecast on any of the leads types, contact the team today.

The future of automotive lead generation

Profound changes are taking place in the automotive landscape and analysts are predicting a greater level of change in the next decade than in the previous half century.

So what does the future hold? We’ve taken a look at three parts of the automotive industry’s commercial future – the landscape of the new car market, the changing behaviours of car buyers and the future of automotive lead generation.

The future of the new car market – is it heading for an electric future?

Electric dreams

One of the hot topics of 2017 has been the increasing exposure for all things electric, with growing political, market and entrepreneurial will to make it happen. The transition to dominance will likely take decades but each step towards it has huge implications for the market. Removing the engine will lead to a swathe of redundant associated organisations in the supply chain, which could have huge implications for aftersales business and dealer profitability.

The pace of change to electric is predicated on a number of factors, not least of which is battery costs coming down to a point whereby electric pricing is competitive with traditional fuel models. And then of course there’s the recharge, range, and performance conundrums to solve.

Growth and decline in the market

But despite these hurdles it will inevitably happen. Electric accounts for less than 5% of the market but year-on-year growth continues and manufacturers are taking it seriously. As evidenced by VW announcing its plans to invest $84bn into electric to bring 300 models to the market by 2030.

In addition, new entrants are looking to make their mark – the recent news of Dyson’s ambitions highlights the diversity of companies determined to bring about an electric future for automotive.

While electric’s share grows, the SMMT reported that the overall UK market declined for a sixth consecutive month in September 2017 with 9.3% fewer cars registered. At the same time, demand from private buyers dropped 8.8% and business and fleet buyers declined by 5.2% and 10.1% respectively.

Macro market and economic conditions are driving this downturn. Uncertainty over Brexit is having an impact on consumer confidence, with expensive new car purchases being put on hold.

Scrappage schemes

Another significant development in 2017 is the reappearance of various scrappage schemes, this time around for older diesel vehicles.

Unlike eight years ago, though, manufacturers haven’t been prompted by government backed scrappage schemes. Instead, they’ve launched scrappage deals of their own positioned as removing dirty diesels from the road. But at the same time helping to stimulate new car sales, in a period of declining year on year sales.


Given the value of a new car purchase, one of the main considerations is affordability and, in practical terms, how much a new car will cost on a month basis.

Personal contract plans are now the dominant force in financing new cars. Approximately nine out of 10 new vehicles in the UK are purchased this way, providing flexibility for the consumer. This method of financing has proved extremely popular primarily because headline monthly rates are very competitive and the consumer can simply pass the vehicle back, essentially never really ‘owning’ it.

Forecasting residual vehicle values is extremely important for OEMs as there is a guarantee to buy the vehicle back at a set price. If residuals are incorrectly set then finance houses can find themselves in the position of having overpriced stock on their books. Given the likely trends for diesel pricing, this could be a potential headache for OEMs over the next few years.

The future of car buying behaviour – is the age of ownership coming to an end?

Given the significant purchase value and choices available, consumers will always need quality content and advice to help guide them through the myriad of options when it comes to deciding which new car to buy.

We believe the trend for increased researching online, rather than visiting multiple showrooms, will continue. This means the visits-per-dealer-to-sales ratio will continue to fall as consumers head to dealerships with more clarity about exactly what car they want to buy.

In many cases, they will have decided what to buy before they walk-in to a dealership, which will typically lead to higher conversion rates. Naturally, though slowly, dealerships are capitalising by being repositioned into digital showrooms, with Audi leading the way in London.

Online purchasing

Whilst the predominant digital behaviour today is ‘research’ rather than ‘purchase’, online purchasing is one area in which the automotive market lags behind many others.

Such purchases account for a small fraction of the market, and whilst this is in-part due to the high value nature of a new car purchase, there are a plethora of other market dynamics which slow the pace of change.

Digital new car configuration and online purchasing will continue to rise though and become an increasingly important part of the consumer journey. This could fundamentally change the landscape for dealerships as we know them today.

Usership v Ownership

The concept of ‘usership’ rather than ‘ownership’ is a growing social trend which will have significant implications for the automotive market.

As we move slowly to a world of self-drive and autonomous vehicles, the traditional concept of owning a vehicle is likely to become increasingly marginalised – particularly in dense cities – in favour of simply demanding the right vehicle at the right time via connectivity.

The future of lead generation – can innovation drive quality?

Automotive lead generation has arguably also been guilty of being slow to change. But change it must to make real progress.

At The Lead Agency, change and progress have been a theme of 2017 with chat bots that start online conversations to predictive engagement platforms that natively present relevant new car content across a network of mainstream automotive websites.

Through a greater understanding of each car buyer’s needs and improved services, we’re creating quality new customer opportunities for more than 25 UK OEMs.

Contextual relevancy and omni-channel engagement

Outdated contact forms are being outperformed online by native units providing contextual relevancy. This is based on an understanding of what content is being consumed, and other known data points about the consumer. Conversions are being increased by introducing relevant offers at the right time – for example, serving discounted new car offers to consumers who have shown intent on the OEMs own site or other relevant automotive websites.

Likewise, consumers today are communicating in an ever-increasing number of ways – via traditional methods such as email and phone, as well as dominant social platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp. They expect to be able to communicate through their preferred method and businesses need to make it easy for consumers to communicate via their channel of choice, rather than force them down a particular channel.

Facilitating the continuation of the consumer’s conversation will ultimately win out. Omnichannel is no longer a nice to have.

Handling consumer data

One of the other significant challenges for OEMs and their lead providers is how their respective CRM systems talk to one another. Each OEM CRM is different, which can make it difficult to transfer rich consumer data, such as existing finance details.

To avoid missed opportunities for our clients, we have built a bespoke customer acquisition ecosystem designed to address these pain points and ensure the consumer’s needs are understood. This means dealership sales teams are well-equipped to meet them and make a sale. Another important step we’re taking is to grow a team of optimisation specialists to work with our clients right the way through the sales process and maximise conversion potential.

Focus on quality

We believe the days of high volumes of low quality leads will become a thing of the past. OEMs will require and therefore expect a mix of quality lead types, which will drive disruption and innovation within the lead generation industry.

Customer acquisition companies that embrace this change and the opportunity it represents will ultimately be the ones that maintain relevance and succeed.

Tom White is automotive managing director for The Lead Agency. 

If you’re interested in discussing our end-to-end customer acquisition service, contact the team today.