AutoNation's Meghan Haslemann on How to Provide a More Meaningful Customer Experience and More

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Cover image for  article: AutoNation's Meghan Haslemann on How to Provide a More Meaningful Customer Experience and More

Meghan Haslemann (pictured at top) is Vice President, Customer Marketing at AutoNation and will be a speaker at ANA's Media Conference, June 16-18. ANA's Group Executive Vice President Bill Duggan sat down with Meghan for a pre-conference interview.

Bill Duggan: In your view from the perspective of a marketer, what are some of the most pressing issues in media today?

Meghan Haslemann: Three issues come to mind: Privacy, the current state of the world and fraud. We are balancing privacy with consumer expectations for relevant content and keeping updated to the latest privacy regulations such as CCPA. Staying aware of how global economic conditions, consumer behavior changes post pandemic and communicating in a hyper-polarized political environment are top of mind; impacting activities from spend to customer experience. Lastly, click fraud is a pervasive issue and we continue to evolve in how to mitigate our risk.

Duggan: What's new in media that has you excited (again, from the perspective of a marketer)?

Haslemann: Connecting online to offline behavior to provide a more personalized experience is exciting. We are marrying final transactions with a prospects' intentions, or online behavior, and then using AI and modeling for a 360 view of the customer. Our customer-facing associates are using this data in our brick-and-mortar stores to provide a more meaningful customer experience.

Duggan: Customer data is perhaps your company's most valuable asset. Please provide a broad overview on how AutoNation optimizes its use of data.

Haslemann: When a customer begins a relationship with AutoNation, we want to make sure their journey is relevant and engaging. This means providing the right messaging at the right time and to be there for our customers whether they are thinking about their vehicles or not. We use our customers' interactions with us (1st party) and 2nd / 3rd party data as signals to understand how we might help our customers next. Oftentimes, a life event, such as a new child, may signal a need for a different type of vehicle and we can provide options. Another trigger or signal would be a safety recall on a vehicle' the customer may not know that their vehicle has a recall so we can communicate about recalls and how to remedy them.

Duggan: With the transition away from cookies, first-party data will be more valuable than ever. How are you feeling about AutoNation's place in the "post-cookies" world?

Haslemann: Our customer's confidence and perceptions regarding their privacy is very important to us. AutoNation believes elimination of 3rd party cookies and increased transparency to consumers on how their data is used is beneficial. We've known the cookie-less future is coming and have been working on solutions. We have an excellent foundation of clean and rich 1st party data as well as robust compliance mechanisms to ensure data is protected. Data platforms and Demand Side Platforms, like LiveRamp and the Trade Desk, are working diligently on identity resolution systems to meet these needs. We are already testing solutions for this post-cookie world with our partners and we will continue to iterate as more changes come. With our foundation, and tools like Customer 360, we can provide a comprehensive and personal experience for our customers. Of course, there will be ongoing adjustments but we are prepared and in a good position. If you aren't testing or having these conversations, this time is now.

Duggan: Put on your consumer hat now. What media do you consume, and do you have a current favorite show?

Haslemann: 2020 was the year of self-improvement via YouTube for me. I started following a variety of channels from cooking to workout videos, many of the suggestions are spot on. I like to get my news and industry media from Twitter and podcasts – I prefer to consume media on demand, although I tend to follow a pretty regimented schedule for when I do consume media so I am not distracted throughout the day. My "current for me" show is the U.K. version of Top Gear. The comedic chemistry among the hosts, over the top production, and interesting places make it a great show.

Duggan: What has changed most for you, in your role as Vice President, Customer Marketing, over the past year?

Haslemann: More so than ever in my career I have focused on being empathetic and nimble. This was important for both my team at AutoNation as well as from our customers' perspective. Empathy … everyone ... my team, their families and our customers were going through something they had not navigated before personally or professionally and I felt it was imperative to check in and listen to make sure the message as a leader and marketer was being delivered correctly. Nimble … it was hard to know what would happen next in our industry and the world. I figured out early on we'd have a Plan A, B and a far-fetched C that we'd put into action based on what direction we saw the industry moving in or as state and local laws changed for the availability of our services.

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