The Avis Budget Group runs two of the largest brands in the car rental business. Between the two there are 120 million rental days from 10,000 locations. This accounts for 28 million transactions and seven billion in annual revenue.

John Peebles, VP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation, gave a little insight into how the company looks at attribution, branding and how it can respond to customers to drive conversion. & account for five million visitors each month and by having access to the analytics of two brands that customers don’t usually connect with each other, the company has valuable insights into conversion.

One of the misconceptions Peebles faces, is that the work they are doing online is about direct response. To him, by pitting branding against direct response, it is a false dichotomy. All impressions are branding and once someone clicks on an ad, all impression could be considered direct response. The two are inherently related and in fact, they are complimentary. Anyone who says differently is probably trying to sell you something.

Does attribution really matter?

The Avis Budget Group are constantly looking at attributed revenue vs comprehensive revenue. It has discovered that 40% of clicks that lead to reservation happen on first impression but they have also reached a large number of people after more than 20 ads were served. When looking at attribution, Avis only counts a search from Google if the rental is done within 24 hours of the first click. 

There’s not the manpower to analyze attribution but it’s an area Peebles wants to grow by building a marketing science department to make these measurement its everyday KPIs.

Avis currently gets 32% new customers and 65% returning ones. For the Avis Budget Group, it has discovered that when a customer comes to them digitally, that they are more likely to return. In fact 41% return on their own compared to 28% who return through another channel. 

Who is Avis losing out to?

Avis and Budget are twice as likely to lose to another supplier and Enterprise is currently “sticking it to them.” By knowing this, Avis can start to look at why they are losing out in order to  minimize the imbalance. Because it works on advertising, website development and SEO all together, it helps them connect the dots – not only to compete better against the competitors but to service its customers better. 

For instance, the team discovered that a lot of customers were searching for ‘one way car rentals’ but they weren’t seeing the rentals they were expecting in that area. This is a big indicator of intent so the website functionality was changed to perform differently when a customer looked for one way rentals in order for it convert better.

Peebles closed with an interesting point. He believes in multivarient testing as more times than not, the ideas tested suck. But it’s important to fail a lot. A case in point came after a lot of people were complaining about thinking they had unlimited milage when they didn’t.

To combat that, a calculator was stuck on the website to help customers look at the milage they would be expecting to use. By doing this, conversion was driven down and the Avis Budget Group were losing 2 million in revenue. Such a small change had such a big impact. 

What’s the most interesting, is that the CEO kept it. Yes, it was losing money but that calculator gave customers more confidence, it drove down complaints and the company saved in customer service costs.

By looking holistically at the effects of small changes, the company benefited across the board.