NEW ORLEANS -- Web data tracking opens new marketing opportunities to auto retailers -- but it also requires new privacy safeguards, says one of the sector's key players.
Dataium, a Nashville venture that monitors between 16 million and 20 million online vehicle shoppers a month, met with retailers last week at the NADA convention here to show them what is possible -- and to urge them to treat customer data carefully.
The company offered retailers a free review of their Web sites.
Angie Sherrell, Dataium managing director, says dealers must protect themselves from the appearance of invading customers' privacy. She urges them to display a site feature that gives visitors the ability to opt out of being tracked as they move to other sites.
Dataium's tracking can tell dealers and automakers where shopping traffic is moving on the Web, and with what sense of urgency, in any given market. The company can tell a dealership that a specific online customer has researched, for example, a Ford Focus, a Nissan Sentra and a Hyundai Elantra before entering a Toyota dealer's Web site.
But Dataium provides only an analysis of the customer's shopping interests and the level of shopping intensity, Sherrell tells dealers -- not a list of specific Web sites visited, not the names of the other dealerships and not the customer's name or personal information.
The local market data could help retailers tailor advertising budgets and fine-tune inventories, Sherrell says.
"If I'm a Toyota dealer and I can see that the Ford F-150 pickup was the single most-shopped vehicle in my specific market for the last two weeks, it would sure signal to me that I need to put some F-150s into my Toyota store's used inventory," she says.
The company is also marketing its ability to help automakers predict what models will be selling and where, based on seeing where Internet traffic is moving and at what intensity, she says.
That insight could help automakers plan production volumes and predict where models need to be moved around the country.