How Auto Trader boosted performance marketing by taking a test and learn approach

Auto Trader partnered with AppNexus in a bid to improve its click-based performance and maintain its share in an increasingly competitive market.

Against a backdrop of an increasingly competitive automotive market, Auto Trader put its foot on the accelerator and shifted its marketing strategy up a gear in a big drive to help it maintain its market share.

Its mission was simple: to increase transparency, foster audience growth and engagement, and gain actionable insight around its display activity – something the brand admitted it had found difficult and time consuming given the complex set-ups and its small team.

To put the wheels in motion, Auto Trader enlisted the help of AppNexus in the second half of 2017 to execute a strategy that would significantly improve campaign performance across a wide range of KPIs – a move which won it the Programmatic and Performance Marketing category at the Marketing Week Masters Awards in 2018.

Auto Trader’s winning entry involved using a new DSP product, AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), which is designed to alleviate campaign set-up as well as drive stronger click-based performance.

By taking a modular approach towards achieving the objectives of traders by using machine learning algorithms such as ‘Discovery’, ‘Valuation’ and ‘Bidding’ and regular client communication, APP consolidates the line item and campaign objects into a new line item interface, which helps traders to save time and increase clarity when they set up campaigns.

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Indeed, by adopting an agile test and learn approach, Auto Trader managed to improve outcomes by up to 90%. Campaign set-up was substantially reduced – saving up to three hours of manual work and freeing up time to focus on other business priorities.

Ongoing product testing was key to the success of the project. To begin with a modest budget was attributed toward a single prospecting APP campaign, with more budget allocated to other campaigns depending on the ease of implementation and performance.

After gathering enough data, there was clear evidence of improved performance, which led Auto Trader to start trialling identical live test campaigns in another major DSP which would run simultaneously with APP. The data from that gave an indication of their respective performances.

Communication between Auto Trader and AppNexus was also key to ensure both parties had an equal understanding of established goals, resulting in Auto Trader delivering effective strategies to a relevant and engaged audience.

Because of its success, Auto Trader is planning to increase spend this year by roughly 40% and says it will continue to be a beta partner with AppNexus for the foreseeable future as more tech is developed and tested.