February 07, 2006

Case Study - GM Test for Kiosks

General Motors Tests Kiosks to Gather Car Buyer Leads: 7 Lessons Learned (Plus Results Data)

Last year General Motors decided to junk their paper-based lead generation systems completely in favor of electronic kiosks at autoshows and summertime events across Canada.

It was a huge risk that got great results. This exclusive MarketingSherpa Case Study outlines the nitty-gritty details of the program. (Example: Did you know you should always bolt your kiosks to the floor?)

Every year General Motors Canada exhibits at about 50 autoshows, sporting events, theme parks (such as water parks) and other events consumers throng to.

The typical display includes at least one vehicle for the crowds to admire, plus stacks of paper "enter to win" sweeps entries and ballots. The goal is to generate brand awareness and sales leads.

But, those handwritten sweeps and ballots are a pain to manage on the back-end. Consumers don't have perfect handwriting, and many resort to strange shorthand abbreviations for things like city-name. Also, although GM's data center had a crack team processing the paper forms, the work took awhile, so leads couldn't always be acted on while they were still hot.

By December 2004, Susan Walker GM's CRM Enterprise Data Enablement Manager was fed up with bad data, wasted time, and processing costs. She had a vision of a better world for 2005 -- paperless lead generation.

At the time practically no other consumer lead generation marketer in Canada was using electronic kiosks. The risk of handing over all event lead generation to an unknown technology for the year was stupendous.

Walker carefully mitigated risk by first running a quick pilot test that month, putting kiosks in five dealerships. The promotion was for an end-of-year contest.

"It got us hooked. Consumers were not scared to walk up to them. So, we made a leap of faith to go wireless. We crossed our fingers."

With just three weeks left until the first big autoshow of the new year, Walker and her team, including a kiosk vendor and GM's ad agency (links to both below), scrambled to get the program up and running in time for all events in 2005. The team carefully based their tests and tactics on seven lessons learned by other kiosk users:

Lesson #1. Use alterable creative

The kiosks, which looked a bit like old fashioned videogames, were designed with interchangeable displays so the "packaging" could be changed to match the event or GM's promotional elements at the event. "We wanted the surveys to blend into the event and not look like typical GM corporate surveys."

This gave the brand marketers a chance to make an impression about GM even to consumers who didn't stop to fill out the form.
Walker decided to put GM's agency in charge of this creative element rather than the kiosk folks, because the agency were keepers of the brand.

Lesson #2. Make it light -- but bolt it down

The team shipped between eight and 20 kiosks to each event. The kiosks had to be light enough to keep down shipping costs and manageable for the booth crew on site. The final kisosk weighed about as much as larger laptop. However, "stability was a concern for us. We bolted it to the floor to make sure if it got crowded, it would not get knocked over."

This also stopped the adventurer in every crowd who thinks it would be super fun to take a kiosk home. This is the type who also walked off with or broke the pens that were attached by wires to the kiosks. (The pens were used to mark answer buttons on the screen.) So, the display team always kept a bag of spares on hand and routinely patrolled for pen losses and breakages.

Lesson #3. Wireless data downloads

It's critical to have the ability to download entries from each kiosk easily and remotely on a routine (at least daily) basis. As Walker notes, you don't want to risk keeping info in the kiosk itself in case it's damaged, or simply 'switched off' at the end of the day.

Also, remote wireless control lets the home-team control the kiosk data rather than relying entirely on the efforts of the events team who may be busy managing a heck of a lot else.

"We did online reports too posted to our intranet," notes Walker. "I could go in and instantly see how many people entered the day before. I could slice and dice the data."

Lesson #4. Optimize your form

With that sort of data available on a daily basis, the team were able to tweak their entry form on the kiosk itself. Their goal, to maximize the number of survey completes while measuring lead quality.

To that end, they optimized the kiosk screen just as you normally would optimize a Web landing page. Tests included number of questions in total, number of questions per screen-page, size of questions on the screen, and where offer reminders "You'll be entered to win a …" would appear during the survey to encourage completion.

Plus, they also optimized the final "thank you" page to direct kiosk users to the next step at GM's booth based on their answers. For example, you might instruct people who are ready to buy to check out easy credit options at the financing station on site.

Lesson #5. Rent (don't buy)

"I'm glad we didn't buy last year's kiosks. There are new and improved kiosks out this year. We also didn't want the insurance liability. We wanted someone else to worry about storage, breakage, and all of that. Renting might be a little more expensive, but I don't want to buy technology that has a one-year lifespan. Rent from an expert and let them run it."

Other advantages to renting, "We had back-up kiosks in every city and support from the vendor for replacements within 24 hours."

Lesson #6. Test alternative technology (tablets, swiping)

While lines can be a good thing, causing other consumers to wonder what the excitement is about, Walker worried about losing potential leads if kiosk lines got too long at some events.

So she tested adding a 'swipe your driver's license' to some kiosks (newer Canadian licenses can be swiped) to add in contact info on the forms and save typing time. She also tested handing portable laptop-style screens to booth staff and having them walk out into the crowd to collect entries.

Lesson #7. Follow-up with an email

The automotive industry has been studying the effects of lead response time for years. Walker knew it was critical for all leads generated from each event to receive a new "thank you" touch from GM within a matter of a day or two. So, she set up an email program that automatically sent a follow-up message to leads. (Link to email samples below.)

"We're a big fan of kiosks," says Walker after her first 13 months of kiosk use. However, she's got one reservation -- "as long as the event is indoors." Turns out outdoor events, in particular at water parks, weren't suited to electronic kiosks.

Overall GM captured 24% more leads at events year over year when they made the switch from paper to kiosk. Plus, the number of leads spoiled by incomplete or illegible data was down by almost 10%. And, data entry costs were down enough to help cover the cost of the program.

Form optimization tests showed that it was best to remind consumers about the sweeps offer on the screen where they entered their contact information. This was the most-likely bail page before. "You must reinforce the contest on the greeting page as well."

The team also learned forms should never take an average consumer longer than a minute to fill out. Walker's first forms were almost two minutes long and she shaved them considerably.

One other lesson: Don't have staff walk around with portable entry tablets at an auto show. We've heard this tactic can work for other types of brands at events (example: CareerBuilder.com) but consumers are too wary of automotive sales people to appreciate being approached by anyone from an automotive brand.

The follow-up thank-you emails worked well, with 16% of recipients clicking on a link in the email to get more information about GM. These emails were very soft educational offers for 2005. For 2006 the team is testing slightly harder special offers to see how they do.

The other big change for 2006 -- Walker switched from the pens to allowing people to enter their information using a fingertip. Results are already better, and the event staffers are relieved of their pen patrols.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from GM Canada

In-Touch Survey Systems – the company that supplied the kiosks and programming:

MacLaren McCann Canada - GM Canada's ad agency who handled all creative and many of the logistics around the Kiosk campaign

General Motors Canada

MarketingSherpa.com : Practical News & Case Studies on Internet Advertising, Marketing & PR

Posted by keefner at February 7, 2006 06:22 PM