Auto Industry - A Greater Digital Marketing Imperative

Increasingly, the first stop for many car shoppers today is not the dealer showroom, but the Internet. And while conventional wisdom would suggest that shopping car Web sites improves sales performance, a recent surveyof 13,000 drivers in 11 countries finds that the current state of industry Web sites may impact performance. The study finds that consumers want content on auto industry Web sites customized to be more relevant to their specific car-buying needs and believe such a change would make the process simpler and faster.

As car shoppers depend more and more on Web sites to make their car-buying decisions, it only makes good business sense for companies to put as much effort into developing an effective, interactive digital marketing platform as it does to create extraordinary physical presentations like the show and establish successful brick-and-mortar enterprises. 



Better digital marketing sites are key to future car-buying, according to the survey. Specifically:

  • 83 percent agree that improved digital media would significantly reduce the time needed to purchase a vehicle
  • 76 percent feel that the auto sector significantly lags other retail industries in the use of digital media tools such as video and 360-degree Web site tours
  • 82 percent of the respondents believe that better interactive digital marketing is a must for the auto industry

Putting digital marketing to better use will only complement their business model and could yield an increase in top-line sales for the industry of 1-2%.

The need is now. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) need new forms of differentiation while dealing with the current macroeconomic pressures. The survey suggests that the customer experience will be led by digital attention spans -- which are decreasing, while expectations are on the rise. The survey also finds that consumers are open to offers for loyalty and maintenance plans, and would like customized landing pages. OEMs need to pair the digital message with the customer’s reason for buying.

Of the consumers surveyed who say they research their car purchases online before buying a vehicle, 89 percent visit at least six Web sites or more first, and one-third (33 percent) say they need to browse more than 20 Web sites to get the information they need. Moreover, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) indicate that the current digital marketing approaches among automakers and dealers drive them to use more traditional offline media for the information required to make their vehicle choices. To this end, 66 percent of consumers want more customized content that is relevant to their needs. This finding suggests that as products become more complex, more concise content is required to explain and to differentiate.

Core findings of the survey offer a roadmap that manufacturers and dealers should consider to enhance their digital marketing efforts. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) favor a process that will enable them to obtain more simplified information online, while nearly two-thirds (60 percent) would like the comparison process to be simplified. Seventy percent want the ability to chat online with a dealer. 

The overwhelming majority (95 percent) want to be able to compare additional options with the same automaker’s product line, while 91 percent would like easier and clearer pricing to help expedite the car-buying process. Eighty-eight percent want dealers to provide them with a simpler way to configure a vehicle.

Consumers not only want a better interactive online experience, but better integration between the online and offline sales process so that the transition from visiting the Internet to completing the purchase in the showroom will be seamless. Ninety percent of the respondents believe improved auto Web sites would significantly reduce the time needed to purchase a vehicle.

Finally, the study reveals that shoppers would be willing to elevate the online-offline sales process even more. Given the opportunity, 94 percent would consider having the option of making the entire purchase of a car online, including financing, price negotiation, the back-office paperwork, and delivery to their home. Although this scenario may not be a reality now, if it becomes feasible it would augment and improve showroom performance -- not hinder it.



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