Automotive Marketing: An Overview of Current Marketing Trends, Statistics, and Strategies
The auto industry has undergone ongoing and dynamic transformation over recent years. Connected technologies, changing trends in consumer shopping behavior, digital and mobile channels, longer vehicle lifespans, and consumer mobility behaviors are all impacting how the automotive industry must respond to the changing climate.
Research recently released by 9 Clouds, “The 2016 State of Automotive Marketing”, broke down some of these key trends and how they specifically relate to marketers in the auto industry.
For automotive dealers, the biggest marketing priority by far is increasing lead volume and conversions.
Proving ROI and securing budget were named as the biggest marketing challenges at dealerships.
Dealerships are increasingly adopting marketing automation tools to automate and personalize communications with new prospects. So for example, if a website visitor fills out an online form expressing interest in a certain vehicle, an automated email can be triggered with information about that vehicle and an alert can also be sent to the sales team for follow-up. Dealers using marketing automation are 2x more likely to see higher marketing ROI than dealers who do not use marketing automation.
Dealerships are also utilizing the data they have on hand prior to contacting a prospect. The most common pieces of consumer data include basic contact details, vehicle interest, and purchase/service history.
An interesting study by ACA Research maps out the automotive customer journey and the timing for key events from initial research to final purchase. According to the research, “Generally the automotive vehicle purchase journey for the vehicle and finance can take between 5 and 12 weeks and encompasses the following steps.”
- Develop a shopping list of vehicle brands: approx. 1-3 months prior to purchase.
- Cull the shortlist: 4-7 weeks before purchase.
- Test drive vehicles: 2-4 weeks before purchase.
- Finalize vehicle choice: on average 1-3 weeks before purchase.
Trends in Mobile Marketing
Mobile devices are rapidly changing the way that consumers research, shop and make purchases. According to the J.D. Power 2015 New Autoshopper Study, 51% of respondents said they used a smartphone or tablet to help find the make, model, price and dealership that best suited their needs.
And once a consumer arrives at the dealership, they continue to use their mobile devices for additional research. Did you know that consumers using a mobile device are 72% more likely to visit another dealership than those who were without a smartphone or tablet while car shopping? And 33% of customers went to another dealership based on a mobile ad they saw while shopping for a car. (Source: Placed, Inc. and Cars.com)
Google has responded to this trend with solutions to help dealerships display their inventory on mobile devices. 1 out of every 2 automotive searches on Google now occur on smartphones – which is up 51% year over year. In response, Google has released a mobile ad format for auto marketers: Automotive ads. They’ve effectively created a mobile showroom that includes:
· Exterior and interior images of cars searchers can swipe through
· Details about vehicle performance and features
· A find a local dealer section
· Links to navigate to a dealer site, and to call or get directions to a local dealer
Advancements in data insights and mobile technologies have also given dealerships new ways to target in-market auto and service shoppers by mobile IDs. Mobile targeting has generally taken the form of audience targeting, such as targeting based on device, apps, site user is visiting, and assumptive “look-alikes. Real-time location targeting targets every device within a store’s proximity such as beaconing and geofencing. However, unlike traditional mobile marketing, which only targets the device, new technologies can target the actual consumer during the crucial 48-72 hour period when they’re making a buying decision.
Relevate Auto offers a solution called Relevate Signals to give dealerships the ability to identify which of their customers and prospects are visiting competing dealerships and which dealerships they are using for service. Relevate Signals is different from traditional mobile marketing or lead products because Signals leads represent real people who are actively shopping at a dealer lot. Mobile devices are matched to actual people including demographics, contact information, and VIN data.
Consumers Demand a Personalized and Exceptional Experience from their Dealership
Auto dealerships can no longer compete on price alone in an age where customer experience has become the new competitive commodity and consumers have the luxury of comparison shopping on line. Two studies conclude that in the age of the empowered consumer and changing expectations, auto dealers must change too.
- 54% of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.
- 72% would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved.
- 56% of shoppers would buy more cars if the process was easier.
- Auto sales could rise about 25% if the retail experience improves.
- 99 of 100 automotive shoppers begin their purchase journey expecting it to be a “hassle” driven in large part by their experience, and that of friends/family, with retailers seeking to control the buying process to the retailer’s objectives.
Capgemini also released a report indicating a strong correlation between customer satisfaction and loyalty particularly for dealers. Only 10% of customers, not satisfied at all, say they would likely or very likely buy their next car from the same dealer. 87% of highly satisfied customers would purchase the same brand again and 85% would buy from the same dealer.
Clearly there is huge opportunity for dealership to increase revenue among car buyers by providing a seamless and personalized customer experience across channels.
Video Marketing is Driving Sales
Research that Google commissioned from Millward Brown Digital indicates that 70% of people who used YouTube as part of their car buying process were influenced by what they watched and views on YouTube of test drives, features and options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the past year.
Consumers tend to search out videos at the beginning of the car buying process. The 3 types of videos consumers spend the most time watching include:
- Test drives of particular makes and models
- Videos that focus on features of different makes and models
- Interior and exterior car walk-throughs
Some additional key statistics and trends to consider include:
- Consumers Expecting a 24/7 Real-Time Response. According to a study by Arthur D. Little, dealers average response time is 9.2 hours and OEMs average time is around 24 hours. This is a huge opportunity for improving the overall customer experience.
- The Role of Integrated Mobile Apps. Integrated mobile apps and connected vehicle services deliver more value for the customer, enhancing customer loyalty after the initial car purchase. A study by DMEautomotive showed that vehicle buyers using a branded app were 73% more likely to make a purchase from the dealership, and after making a purchase, booked 25% more service appointments than shoppers without an app. They also spent more money than non-app users when purchasing a vehicle, 7% more according to a study commissioned by Cars.com.
- Changing Technologies and Key Demographics. Consumers today are more connected and connected cars will ultimately appeal to a wide variety of demographics. However, a wide range of studies show that demand skews towards younger demographics. A report by automotive research company, SBD provides evidence that these connected systems are important to younger, more digitally oriented consumers and will likely impact their next vehicle brand purchase decision. Cars play a key role in supporting Millennials’ need to stay connected, and in a study by Autotrader.com, 72% of younger millennials indicated that a car is important to their social life. Style and features, especially technology, are critically important to them. For example, more than 70% of younger millennials cite technology and infotainment features as “must-haves” when purchasing a car.
- Focus on Digital Channels. As many as 89% of consumers are looking for vehicle information online – on car manufacturer and dealer sites, third party review sites and through social media. The research also shows that while 52% obtain information from dealerships the reliance on sales people is declining. Automotive brands must place high emphasis on an array of digital channels in order to make the short list throughout the customer journey.
As purchasing decisions continue to shift online, marketing and sales teams will have to follow suit. Consumers are conducting more research through digital and mobile channels, and the customer experience they receive as they engage with automotive brands will determine which vehicle and dealership they will choose.