How carsales navigates privacy and changing customer behaviour in a new hybrid world

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carsales is one of the largest classifieds of its kind in Australia, a digitally-born marketplace with over 20 years of experience developing world-leading technology and advertising solutions that drive its business around the world.

At this year’s Adobe Summit, Adobe Vice President Suzanne Steele spoke with Stephen Kyefulumya, GM Media Growth and Innovation at carsales, to explore how customer behaviour and expectations have evolved over the past few years and how carsales is tackling the changing business landscape – from the demise of third-party cookies to the ongoing talent crunch.

Here are key insights business leaders and marketers must know to stay ahead of the curve as we enter the new era of experiences in the post-pandemic world.

1. With the demise of third-party cookies, building trust is more important than ever

According to Adobe research, 58 percent of consumers will stop buying from a brand if they no longer trust them or if personalisation and interaction with the brand does not feel authentic. The growing role of trust in influencing business outcomes has not taken carsales by surprise.

“Trust is now a buzzword because of changes in the industry, but we’ve been advocating trust for a long time,’ Stephen says.

The nature of running a marketplace business has allowed carsales to build strong bonds with their customers over time, grounded in the fact that car purchases are often triggered by personal life changes.

The trust carsales’ customers have in them has enabled the brand to offer contextually relevant personalisation at scale, setting them up for success as we collectively transition into the era of cookieless marketing.

2. With great talent comes great innovation

“Great innovation is driven by talent, but innovation also attracts talent so it’s a circular relationship,” Stephen says.

carsales believes good digital talent is key to fuelling its transformation, but the pandemic and resultant closed borders have driven a talent crunch across industries in Asia Pacific. Stephen is hopeful that the reopening of borders will give carsales access to a greater pool of talent over the coming months.

carsales is ramping up its focus on offering personalised experiences, not just to its customers but also to its employees, to attract and retain them. This comes in the form of autonomy and flexibility to choose the work arrangements that suit them best, thanks in part to the pandemic proving that working from home can be just as productive for the business. Stephen believes this will give carsales a competitive advantage when it comes to talent acquisition.

3. Customers are being more thoughtful about their purchase decisions

Every four years, carsales conducts independent research into the buying journey of its customers to better understand what is influencing their purchasing decisions. This investigation threw up an interesting insight: in 2017, it took the average carsales buyer 2.5 months to move from the trigger to purchase stage. In 2021, the number had jumped to 7 months.

Why? People were now building a list of purchase considerations, then revisiting and refining it repeatedly over an increased period of time. This meant greater opportunities for marketers to use data and personalisation to influence that purchase journey. And while Stephen doesn’t have the answer to how consumer behaviour will continue to evolve, one thing is for sure: the length of the decision-making process will only grow. It is up to businesses to leverage this additional time to refine their personalisation strategy and develop their competitive advantage.

4. Organisations must not wait for privacy legislation to change before changing their approach to privacy

Stephen shares that there are three key changes shaping the privacy landscape that businesses must keep pace with: the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) changes, and oncoming changes in privacy legislation.

To address these, carsales focuses on two technical areas: having a customer data platform (CDP) and an ID solution, enabling the organisation to manage and stitch IDs within their domain. These components – in addition to their people-based marketing approach, which can be conducted at scale without any dependence on cookies – will help carsales stay ahead of data privacy concerns and legislation.

This approach is echoed by Adobe. Suzanne says brands need to act now on data privacy and governance, and it isn’t about “waiting for legislation or regulations to happen, but actually having a clear data strategy that puts your customer at the heart of everything that you do,”

In this new hybrid world, it is the leaders who are at the forefront of the trends and nuances shaping how they do business, as well as being adept in change management, who are best equipped to lead their organisations to success.