The number of leads generated on automotive manufacturer websites rose 4% during the fourth quarter of 2017 compared with the prior quarter -- but manufacturers managed to offset the lower engagement with higher traffic and promotional incentives in the final quarter of the year.
One thing is certain -- full-size pickup trucks are in demand, and consumers still want mid-sized SUVs, according to IgnitionOne's report, released Wednesday.
The Automotive Industry Report Q4 2017 analyzes traffic from 350 manufacturer and dealer websites across more than 50 countries. It looks at automotive trends regionally in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, providing marketers with information on leads, engagement, and potential conversions on a variety of devices.
Mobile led in terms of the device that consumers used to request brochures, quotes, test-drives, or any other way of "raising their hand to get into contact with their local dealership." As the year progressed, so did consumers' use of mobile, except for a slight dip in the third quarter.
For the first time ever, more than one-third of all automotive site traffic focused on SUVs.
Overall engagement was down in the fourth quarter -- but site traffic increased, creating a clear opportunity for manufacturers to leverage their first-party data as part of a website personalization and media strategy.
The report revealed decreased global traffic and engagement for compact cars. With sales already beginning to decline, this could be a harbinger of a trend throughout 2018.
December site traffic was 24% lower than January 2017, but the final quarter of the year saw traffic just as high or slightly higher compared with the third quarter of 2017.
Websites featuring full-size pickup trucks had the biggest bump in 2017. Compact cars did well in the beginning of the year and fizzled out toward the final quarter.
In North America, website visitors increasingly searched for mid-size crossover SUVs, full-size SUVs, and full-size pickup trucks, whereas mid-sized and compact cars saw a decline in site visitors’ share of almost 20% in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.
In Europe, the traffic flow was somewhat different. The trend remained consistent from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, and SUVs received more attention. For the first time ever, more than one-third of all automotive site traffic was related to SUVs, on par with the site traffic of mini, small and medium-sized cars collectively. These segments declined in traffic from more than 40% in the first quarter to 34% in the fourth quarter.
The first quarter of 2017 remained the highest -- at 100 -- for engagement in 2017, with the fourth quarter the lowest at 93, compared to 97 in the third quarter. December showed the lowest engagement level of car site visitors, scoring an index of just above 90.
Since engagement is interpreted as a proxy for buying intent, lower global traffic and lower traffic share in combination with lower engagement signals that sales will decline in the near future in North America. This remains true for compact cars, although compact crossover interest continues to increase. Mid-size SUVs continue to remain stable as well.