General Motors' Buick and GMC divisions are using Facebook's application programming interface to create a link between vehicle research and configuration and the all-important opinions of friends and family.
The new Facebook integration on GMC.com and Buick.com allows consumers who are building and configuring Buick and GMC vehicles to save them in their own directory on the site and then share the configured vehicles with Facebook "friends" who can post comments or "like" their customized selections.
That commentary appears on the user's Facebook wall as well as in a more streamlined array on the personalized area of Buick.com or GMC.com where they have saved their configured vehicles.
General Motors' GMC truck and SUV brand, which completely reconfigured its consumer site in April, also recently launched a mobile showroom application that allows consumers to use smartphones to configure a vehicle and review competitive comparisons, peruse local dealer inventories, request a quote, schedule a dealer test drive or view offers. Buick will launch a similar application. The two brands also have Apple iPads that mirror the shopping tools on buick.com and GMC.com.
Janet Keller, digital and social media manager at GMC, tells Marketing Daily that the new Facebook integration "is about learning how consumers use social media and improving upon the shopping experience." She says that until now, consumers had been doing build-your-own (BYO) vehicle configuration online, "but it was sort of cut short, since we hadn't facilitated their getting input from friends and family, which is something we know they are doing on their own anyway."
She says the new app, in addition to letting consumers save multiple vehicle configurations, also enables them to decide with whom they want to share those configurations, and to see what each said about the vehicles at the GMC.com site, rather than having to go to Facebook.
Keller adds that down the road, GMC will look to personalize the configuration experience, "because the connection with Facebook allows us to get insights in terms of consumers' interests and pursuits. That means at some point we can help them choose as they are narrowing down their selection, based on their interests."
The company will not need to generate a lot of buzz around the new application, per Keller. "We get about two million people visiting GMC.com every month and about a quarter of them actually go through the BYO process, so there will be a lot of people going through that process and interacting with the Facebook connectivity."
Jim Kruger, digital and social media manager at Buick, says the division's use of the Facebook API is a work in progress -- since the automaker is one of the first brands to launch it, and because the Facebook integration offers a new way to examine social-network ROI.
"When we first heard about the Facebook product we were eager to put it up and get learnings, and we will do ongoing research to see what the next evolution will be. This is basically step number one, and it will probably change over the next 12 months as we find out what consumers like," he says, adding that GM will also roll out out similar integrations with Facebook at Cadillac and Chevrolet.
Kruger says the social media integration fits with Buick's buyer psychographic, as Buick owners index with owning tablets and smartphones more than any other GM brand. "They are very interactive-savvy. Year-over-year, Buick.com traffic is one of the few that keeps increasing."