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“Events Have A Positive Sentiment That Perhaps Being Associated With One Particular Team Won’t Necessarily Give You”

By Ben Page | May 16, 2022

iSportConnect speaks to Charlotte Ford, Head of Brand Marketing & Engagement at heycar, to find out more about how the online car retailer is targeting their sponsorships to fit target demographics.

Currently one of Europe’s largest online car retailers, heycar was established in Germany in 2017, launching in the UK in 2019.  Since then, heycar have expanded across the continent consistently, with launches in France, the Netherlands and Spain. This has been supported by the corporations who are helping to launch the company and continue its development.

We’ve had fantastic growth backed by corporate shareholders,” says Charlotte Ford, Head of Brand Marketing & Engagement. “Key shareholders include Volkswagen, Volkswagen Financial Services, Mercedes-Benz Mobility, as well as the investments of Allianz and Renault Group and its subsidiary RCI Bank and Services in 2021. So that means we’re in this for the long term as a strong consumer facing brand. We’ve gone from 30 people in the UK when we started, to now almost 100 in the UK and 500 across the Group business.”

There are times in people’s lives where they are more likely to be purchasing a vehicle, so when you’re looking at the marketing and sponsorship within heycar, which demographic are you mainly targeting?

Recently we’ve undergone a piece of audience segmentation analysis to better understand our audience. One of our strongest USPs is that we offer consumers the flexible way to buy a car. You can buy your car in a more traditional way by going to a dealership and talking it through with one of our trusted dealers, or do it directly online. 

“Our research told us that the ecommerce audience skewed younger and was around 61% male, whereas the dealer audience skewed older, from around 45 to 55+ and was slightly more female.”

When we started the audience segmentation analysis, we wanted to know the differences between those two buying audiences. Our research told us that the ecommerce audience skewed younger and was around 61% male, whereas the dealer audience skewed older, from around 45 to 55+ and was slightly more female.

We’d been approaching it, like many automotive sales companies, thinking of targeting men, but through this data we’ve subsequently looked at our sponsorship plan with that nuance by understanding that we have two very different audiences. So how can we talk to them both? 

So what makes heycar unique in terms of comparisons with competitors?

We have certain quality standards for all of our cars. Anything we sell is under eight years old and has to have under 100,000 miles on usage. Our flexibility of choice is something that we offer that some of our competitors don’t, but those quality standards that we apply on top gives us a unique position. 

When you’re looking at your whole marketing inventory, how much of it is prefaced on digital? As you are predominantly a digital business is this the most important facet for you?

It’s a great question, because there’s a certain amount of brand building where you need to go with broadcast channels to get the reach and the frequency so TV and radio, and out of home to an extent, are important channels for us.

“There’s a certain amount of brand building where you need to go with broadcast channels to get the reach and the frequency so TV and radio, and out of home to an extent, are important channels for us.”

However, we know that the car buying contemplation window is quite lengthy and digital is really important as a channel to drive conversion. Our fantastic in-house performance and SEO teams, as well as our editorial content team, provide a lot of really useful content for customers looking to buy their next car.

What is the split between those two areas?

Roughly, the majority is 60% brand building and then 40% digital channels. That’s predominantly because we’re in a brand relaunch year and we’ve just kicked off a new above the line campaign a couple of weeks ago. That’s driving the budget split at the moment. Digital as a channel for us is very important though which is a key focus of the performance team and the SEO team.

How great are the benefits of being able to track the performance analytics and seeing what works with those audiences? 

It’s been great for us to be reactive to what we see and then to adapt to improvements that we can make to the site, or product upgrades that we can do.

I’d also say that SEO is hugely important for us. We acquired four network sites last year including Honest John, which is a really strong automotive editorial site. It has been very well respected for years so that acquisition was guided for SEO purposes but also credibility. It provides content that consumers are looking for about guidance on what to buy and how to choose the next car they’re looking for.

When it comes to sport, you have two competitors who have been spending a lot of money with teams and events. You have gone in a different direction by partnering with broadcasters around a variety of events, what was the reasoning behind this?

I think events have a unique, exciting feeling, and a positive sentiment that perhaps being associated with one particular team won’t necessarily give you. That positive feeling is one that we’d like to tap into with live events.

We have also partnered with a variety of broadcasters, across Sky Sports on TV and with Talksport on radio. In recent months we’ve also started a sponsorship with The Athletic, using that emotional connection, excitement and camaraderie sport provides to people, which we all love.

“Events have a unique, exciting feeling, and a positive sentiment that perhaps being associated with one particular team won’t necessarily give you.”

We’ve also explored the use of perimeter boards, such as recently at Six Nation, which has been another chance for us to use live sporting events in particular.

That association aspect is interesting because we’ve seen it a lot with what Chelsea FC have been going through at the moment, where partners are now having a lot of difficult decisions to make.

I think if you have that connection, it has to be authentic. There are certain brands that have geographical associations which make it relevant. For us as a new brand we would need to have that authentic connection to make it right for heycar. 

As you mentioned those broadcast partnerships fit with the demographics, where you’ve been partnering around golf coverage and the Champions League, have you been seeing success when it comes to that younger male audience segment?

Absolutely. We measure brand marketing success in a number of different ways, whether it be site performance, leads, visits, sales, things like that. But the metrics that I’m most interested in at the moment are brand awareness and brand consideration.

We are able to segment that so we can look at that against the audience segments and we have seen particularly in the last two months with Sky Sports News and The Athletic in particular, spikes in line with when our ads were broadcast. 

With The Athletic is that around their podcasts and video content then?

It’s all around their podcast network, such as the very popular Totally Football Show. Using this it also gives you the chance to be positioned around a huge range of clubs as they are talking to all the different teams as well. So instead of it just hitting Manchester United fans, Chelsea fans, etc. it’s not tying our association to any one particular team, but across the entire passion point of football.

You’ve come on board more recently, so what are your targets and the positioning you want to achieve for heycar within the UK?

The uniqueness of heycar is what we really have to push, overlaying that with the quality standards that we have to give you the positive feeling you get from buying a car. It’s what our previous above the line campaigns have been all about and what our new campaign is about.

“We’re definitely on a growth trajectory and are looking at five more launches across the next year or so.”

Dramatising that feel good moment is the position I want to see the brand really grow and own, particularly as we explore events and how they’re relevant for our audience.

heycar is still a relatively young company overall, but it’s got big backing and is expanding around Europe. What are the overall business goals both within the UK and internationally?

We’re definitely on a growth trajectory and are looking at five more launches across the next year or so. In the UK we have diversified our offerings, a lot of what we’ll be focusing on this year is launching that message around the dual proposition and building our ecommerce functionality, there’s a lot of excitement around that in particular. We’re also looking at growing the stock past the 100,000 cars we currently have for sale.

To find out more about heycar, head to their website – https://heycar.co.uk/

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