Alex Holt is the General Manager at FUEL
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Kyle Mountsier: 0:00This is in the dirt with ASOTU. Alright, we are sitting here at the Cars.com booth with Alex Holt and hanging out with the GM of Fuel, but also like he was just describing to us actually his head title is data nerd over here, right? Unofficial head titled, talk to us a little bit about what you're kind of winding road it through other industries and then and then in the automotive.
Alex Holt: 0:28
Yeah so. I started in the media space in Automotive in 2013, working with OEMs and Dealers, and then kind of took a long winding road through a bunch of different industries, Aerospace, Food and Beverage, kind of obvious path. You'd be surprised now restaurant owners, car dealers, there's a lot of similarities. We do talk about that. It's very true. And yeah, and then ended up back in Cars.com, started in the marketing department as a data nerd and you know, focusing on analytics, really unifying data, focusing on person level marketing. And then I've worked my way through some sort of product management roles, thinking about AI and ML and the role of that, and martech. And then I moved on to Fuel where I kind of started from Ground Zero, built our product, build the platform, build the analytics, and now I've sort of taken that across the enterprise thinking about data strategy and marketing activation on our first party data as a whole.
Kyle Mountsier: 1:22
Yeah. Because from what I know about Fuel is it really is thinking about how do we take the audience and the people that we already know that shopping the Cars ecosystem, and extrapolating that for a dealer and plugging it into their local marketing? Absolutely. And so I'm guessing that once you once you saw that, it was like, Whoa, yeah, we can take that across platform app. What was the learning initially, when Fuel came on board, and then the transition to taking that across? But
Alex Holt: 1:49
yeah, so we focus a lot on influence, right? You know, because as cookies are starting to go away, as marketing is getting more difficult for anonymize users, we have to influence people that are in that buying moment. And when you run the video in a local market, to a hyper targeted audience, the lift you see post impression, alright, so if you treat someone who's gotten the video impression, and then someone who's just come to the site organically, you actually see sometimes two to 3x, the engagement because people have often decided on their car, but they haven't decided on their dealer like 93% of people who know what car they want, don't know what dealer they want to go to. And when you build that branding, in that high intent audience, you see this incredible lift and how they engage with the site. And we thought, okay, well, if that's what video is doing, what if we kept engaging them across different media? And it turns out, you can activate this audience in a ton of different ways that all helped each other. So it's kind of rising tide lifts all boats, so across search, social display, video, the whole ecosystem, and you start thinking about person level marketing, right? What is that advertising journey from? I know what car I want to I know where I want to get it.
Paul Daly: 2:58
That's interesting, what they're starting to see in celebrity audiences, I know I'm getting back around, right. So a celebrity can have a following on a social media account. But there's so much talk in the ad world about turning that following into an audience, right and using the data to connect because what they're finding is that even as it ties back to monetizing celebrity them, that hitting people across channel on multiple pieces, whether that is even television, or email, or even direct served ads, that it makes a massive difference in the follower count and the ability, ability for the celebrity to monetize. So like we're going from celebrities to cardio, they're sometimes they're sometimes the same, or the same. But it's interesting that you bring that up, because I was just having that conversation yesterday. Yeah.
And, you know, you bring up things like email and linear, you know, one of the benefits of using our first party data at Cars.com. And marrying that with the dealers first party data is that they both grow, right. And in a cookieless future, if we're looking at this world of, you know, you have to opt into advertising, if you're thinking about the person, once the dealer owns that customer, and you have that engagement. Now that dealer does not have to spend a ton more search budget to acquire this person who they don't know who they are, they don't have to spend social dollars. Now they have them in the database, they can hit them with email, they can call them and these are really cheap ways to own your customer. And so if you start thinking about not channel level traffic, but growing your first party data, you are spending, you know, maybe eight or $10 to acquire a person and now you can save all that money on the back end to try to reacquire them through other channels, and you can maximize the consumer lifetime value. So I think in the future, that's really where we're headed is that person level marketing.
Kyle Mountsier: 4:43
You said the words I was gonna double click on it anyway. But you're a couple years into the Fuel project at this point. I think it was announced in 2020. Right. Yeah. And, and so you're a couple years into that few years into that project and then taking this audience strategy across. Are you seeing, on the other end of a transaction or customer acquisition, on the other end, are you seeing greater brand loyalty or greater retention numbers? Have you started tracking the data past the sale or past the service at this point
Alex Holt: 5:12
We actually have, and it's, it's fairly new, but we work with a very large national customer. And we've done just that. So when we serve our advertising, we actually have built the tech stack. And it really dependent on the customer, not every Dealer is ready for this. And that's one of the things I've been hearing at this show is we need CDP's, we need unified data, we need to stitch the journey together. This customer, thankfully, is over that hump. And so we're able to track from our audience to the ad impression to their CRM to the sale, and we can start really, you know, instead of that one point of sale, then you can really think about lifetime value. And that's the asset that I think that everybody needs to start thinking about is from prospecting, all the way through to their next car sale, three years down the line, what is the cost and the ROI on one person. And if we can think that way, it's really going to change the way we think about customer service and ownership in the future.
Kyle Mountsier: 6:04
I'm getting really excited, because this is like this is like my you know, this is like the reality that we've gone from we have to sell every single car like Vin based advertising. I mean, everybody was talking about that four or five years ago. And now we're all talking about No, these are people that we're serving, they just so they just happen to buy cars, and that the touchpoints, the communications, the lifecycle are that important. And I love to see how technology, what you guys are doing is supporting that narrative. Because I think what we're going to do as an industry, we're going to endear ourselves more to customers than just shouting at them all the time. Yep. Right. And that's really what this does.
And as an industry, our goal should be to help our customers, right. And instead of thinking about it from a pure monetization perspective, if you really understand the person, you can help them and it can be a real relationship, which is really what we want. And in terms of thinking beyond the sale. Another place I think that's really important is the EV market. Like if you look at growth in EV, market share between now and 2030. There are projections, it's gonna be 50%. Most of those cars don't exist yet. So what's going to happen is the cookie is going to go away, right when the EV market skyrockets, no idea. So you're gonna have no idea how to find these people, and everyone's going to be going to Google and they're going to be spending $40 A click on an EV search, because everyone's going there. So if you start thinking beyond the sale, and thinking about how do I build an audience for tomorrow, today, right, you have about a year, year and a half where you can build, understand the research cycle, understand what they're looking for, engage them through email, through content, or newsletters, and you can start building that audience now. So when the EVS really hit, when that line really goes up, you're already going to know who those people are. And even they might not buy for two years. But in two years, you're going to be way ahead of the curve. So again, thinking about the person, the intent and the future, really important.
Paul Daly: 7:53
Well, Alex, it's been great getting to know you and chatting a little bit. Your voice is amazing. I want you to call a baseball game, right? Yes, it's amazing. But thank you for the work that you're doing. This isn't the last time I have a feeling we're gonna talk about these things. And we'll talk soon.
Alex Holt: 8:07
Sounds good. Good to meet you guys. And thanks for the time.
Kyle Mountsier: 8:13
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