As car sales continue to plummet, marketers are tasked with convincing a smaller pool of consumers to buy. Tie that to reduced marketing budgets, and the challenge to tie offline consumer behavior with online digital marketing has become somewhat overwhelming.
While car sales declined for the majority of the brands in the first quarter of 2009, search queries rose on Google. In fact, vehicle shopping-related queries rose 14% during the three months, spurred on by people looking for specific makes, models, prices and integrated technologies.
While greater adoption of digital tools, longer search queries and user-generated content have prompted great change, the biggest problem that automotive marketers face has been connecting offline purchases with online efforts. "We now understand the types of keywords people use at specific points prior to purchase," says Davang Shah, head of automotive marketing at Google. "Six months prior to the purchase, we see roughly 56% of the auto searches buyers conducted were on non-branded search terms such as fuel efficient or hybrid sedan."
Interesting is the shift from six months to one month prior to purchase. Fifty-two percent of auto searches were branded, meaning search terms shift to specific makes and models. It can guide the process by which marketers are connecting with consumers at different points within the purchase process.
Search plays a critical role throughout the purchase process. About 25% of new vehicle buyers who visit an OEM Web site six months prior to purchase were referred by search at least once. One month prior to purchase, 43% of new vehicle buyers who visited an OEM Web site within the month of purchase were referred by search at least once.
The data, related to paid, organic and display advertising as well as online marketing, includes the facts that 68% of buyers visit a manufacturer's site in the six months prior to purchase, and 77% visit a third-party site. In aggregate, 84% visit at least one or the other.
About 70% of new vehicle buyers who visited an OEM site in the six months prior to purchase used the "build-your-own" feature. Marketers can analyze their online marketing strategies to drive more consumers to complete these actions knowing that buyers perform this function online.
Shah says Google will cut the data by brand and provide the information to manufacturers, dealers and third-party companies. Polk, which captures data from U.S. vehicle registrations -- as well as Compete, which compiled the click-stream data from about 2.2 million people who opt into the panel -- comprise the findings. A third-party company compiled the information. The two years of data in aggregate gives carmakers data to make more informed advertising decisions. The findings consider consumer behavior six month prior to confirmed purchases for about 60,000 matches.