Digital Trends in the Automotive Industry


You’re looking to purchase a new automobile.  You have no allegiance to brand, style or model.  You lean on your closest sphere of personal influence for advice; namely your 836 Facebook friends, 348 Twitter followers and 219 Google+ circlers.  The post reads something like, “Who has recent auto buying experience, with the brand and dealer they can share”?

Social signals are everywhere, and unless you have close, personal relationships with people in any one industry chances are as a consumer ready to make a purchase, you will tap into your channels of preference for guidance. Digital trends show the auto industry understands this research mindset and has been shifting marketing tactics to meet consumers’ needs on these channels.

According to eMarketer, in 2010, the auto industry increased their digital advertising spends by a shade over 20%.  This slightly more than the financial industry at 17% and a jump over the clothing industry at just over 10%.  Translation?  It’s not just about brand awareness on your most coveted and well-trafficked websites and search engines; it’s about engaging purchase-ready web users in a variety of channels with true two-way conversations.  Content is King.  We get that.  But outside of shoving glamorous dynamic banner ads down our throats or retargeting us once we’ve taken a peek at Chevy’s new iteration of the Z-28, (is this not the sexist re-run of Muscle Car USA by the way?) content marketing has taken on a whole new meaning.   Let’s examine.

The same eMarketer study referenced earlier states that more than 17% of consumers who visited an automotive retail site did so to compare models.  Meanwhile more than 13% of those same site visitors did so to research pricing before purchasing.  And approximately 11% of these site users are surfing to compare vehicle brands.  It’s safe to say at this pace, brand and vehicle-specific content development is a solid and safe investment.

Think of how far the car and truck buying experience has come on the internet; it’s only been within the last couple of years that consumers have had the opportunity to purchase online without never stepping foot onto a lot.  Some use auto brokers, some more affluent auto buyers take it a step further and shop out of state.  The point however should be perfectly clear; if a fully integrated digital strategy isn’t currently in place, it’s high time to engage car buyers online.

An engaging digital presence can also address many of the common business challenges facing automotive dealers. For example,  the sheer complexity of the various types of purchases – from point of sale to ongoing annual maintenance. Just the process of buying a new car can be intimidating to a first-time buyer. This is where detailed, helpful content outlining the car buying process and options can play a major role in easing the consumer’s path to purchase.

Another major issue is the public’s lack of trust in warranties and service plans. Most surveys done on this topic indicated a high percentage of people feel repair shops overcharge, and at times try to include work unnecessary to the reason for the original visit. Curbing this anxiety and offering best-in-class repair center services can be a clear-cut differentiator, and this can be done by first offering excellent service and customer care, and then developing programs to encourage people to share their positive experiences with their social circles. A testimonial on Subaru’s excellent annual service agreement from your best friend carries a lot more weight than anything the put out by the brand. 

The car buying experience is just like every other path to purchase in that important steps are being taken long before a consumer steps into a brick-and-mortar location. Auto industry marketers have seen these opportunities and are shifting budgets online to take advantage of them.



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