4 Marketing Trends That Will Disrupt The Auto Market

February 23, 2018 Carol Forden

When was the last time you drove from dealership lot to dealership lot in the search for the perfect car?

You probably haven’t, like most people you did your research online before you stepped foot into a dealership, and you entered the dealership with the car model and extras you wanted already selected.

According to an Autotrader study, 88% of prospective buyers use the Internet for their auto buying research.  Consumers are typically searching out content on which car would suit their needs the best, the best deals and rebates available for their budget; they read online reviews to narrow down which dealership they go to buy their next car and when.

Consumers go online to research at every stage of the customer journey. These countless digital micro-moments rule the buying process.

Outsell DIgital Think with Google Auto moments
Source: Think with Google

How Does a Dealership Participate in These Micro-Moments?

There are four automotive marketing trends that dealerships need to be present in each micro-moment to bridge this gap.

1. Mobile dominates digital interactions

Mobile devices govern digital interactions and are a crucial component of the auto shoppers’ journeys. Google studied in detail one consumer’s complete journey, from awareness to purchase, and found that 71% of digital interactions occurred on mobile.

Shortly, 58% of auto shoppers agree that their smartphone will be the exclusive device they use for vehicle research.

A mobile responsive website is not enough today to target mobile-first buyers.

Mobile apps, local search, video content and social media all present opportunities to reach mobile-first buyers on their preferred device.

Consumers are looking for information that is both honest and trustworthy that educates them.  Consider adding customized newsletters that take the consumer through the buying journey, with the knowledge that educates them on what to look for when purchasing a car.

Mobile-first users use both mobile sites and apps as each proves to be more useful in different aspects of the research process.

For example, mobile websites are the preferred platform for comparing vehicles, whereas users use apps to get warranty information or research the nearest dealer. L2 Digital Index reports that desktop is still dominant for activities such as customizing vehicles.  Today, only 68% of mobile auto sites have customization configurators, compared with 93% of desktop sites.

Facebook IQ mobile-auto-shoppersSource: Facebook IQ

Savvy brands like Chevrolet developed a brand app allowing you to customize their vehicles, leveraging smartphone features like 360-degree views. Last year, Chevrolet launched the immersive app for the 2016 Camaro that garnered 62,000 downloads in a matter of months.

2. Local searches rules

Today, the Internet remains the number one source for vehicle research, and as one would expect, a car shoppers’ online experiences begin with a search engine.

When it comes to auto shopping, buyers’ online experiences also end with search, local search to be exact, as they select the right auto for themselves and dealership.

Local search is a potent tool for brick-and-mortar businesses who garner most of their profit from local customers.

According to Chitika, 43% of the overall query volume coming from Google (both mobile and PC) carries a local intent.

Almost half of all search traffic is local. To put this into perspective, Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day.

Local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches, 78% of local-mobile searches result in an offline purchase, usually within a few hours.

This presents a considerable opportunity for astute businesses who dominate local search in their niche.

Therefore, for auto dealerships, being discoverable on local search is critical for every stage of the buying cycle, but even more so where the final selection is made, at the final stage of the sales funnel.

Outsell Digital local-search GoogleEvery auto dealership needs to be covering the basics to ensure their  business is discoverable on searches with local intent:

  • Set up your Google My Business Page
  • Ensure your NAP details (Name, address, telephone) are the same across different listings and match the ones on your website.
  • Build local citations for your business with content
  • Earn online reviews from customers

For more information on local search and best practices, check out this checklist by Moz.

3. Video: The most significant content disruptor

Video has passed the “up-and-coming” trend stage, and it’s here to stay.

Not only is video one of the most effective tactics, it is reportedly the most effective tactic bringing the highest ROI, but it’s also in high demand by consumers.

Four times as many customers watch a video about a product than reading about it.  43% of people want to see more video content from marketers about their products.

Guess what? Car buyers feel the same way.

The latest data from Google shows that vehicle research and purchase decisions are increasingly influenced by video.

More than half of auto shoppers watch 30 minutes or more of videos as part of their vehicle research.

Videos can help brands advance in the brand discovery and consideration stages, possibly accelerating the lengthy and unpredictable automotive sales cycles.

Car shoppers agree that videos play an important role in introducing them to new brands and vehicles, with 47% saying that they first heard about a specific car by watching online videos.

In terms of decision-making, 65% of auto buying consumers reported that they narrowed down their options after watching a video.

The top types of videos car buyers watch are:

  • Test drives
  • Specs and features videos
  • Vehicle interior and exterior walkthroughs

You should be adding video to your marketing mix to maximize the customer journey.

Outsell DIgital Think with Google auto-moments-infographicSource: Think with Google

4. Reach people on digital earlier in the purchase process

The automotive industry is renowned for having complex and lengthy sales cycles.

According to Facebook, 60% of car buyers are in the market for at least six months, actively researching and seeking advice, mainly online.

A Google study showed that people are gathering more information than ever utilizing various channels and platforms, with car buyers having 24 research touchpoints on average.

Outsell Digital Think with Google auto-shopper-sales-cycle-complexitySource: Think with Google

Shoppers considered on average five brands, with essential factors such as car type, size, and other features become more evident later in the buyers’ journey as the final purchase decision approaches.

In the last 30 days of the sales cycle, car buyers have decided on these features and already narrowed down their decision to 1-2 car models.

However, this last month is also the time when shoppers reported being exposed to most car advertising on the Internet.

Auto dealerships are late in the buying cycle with digital ads, by the last month of this lengthy buying cycle consumers have narrowed their search down to 1-2 car makes and models.

Car shoppers are exposed to brands’ digital ads too late in the sales cycle, and opportunities to interact with and engage the consumer are missed. Auto dealers and brands are failing to meet potential car buyers at key times and auto shopping moments.

The discovery and consideration stages are where car dealerships can truly make an impact and influence purchase decisions; car dealerships need to reach potential customers earlier in the purchase cycle.


As digital marketing has a significant influence on car buyers purchasing decisions, car dealerships need to communicate more efficiently with every potential customer across each and every micro-moment.

Digital via mobile marketing needs to become a key focus for automotive dealerships and brands, as the majority of interactions are happening here.

As local search is a potent tool, it is a worthwhile investment in SEO or being aware of what keywords you rank for. To add in compelling online educational content and newsletters to help consumers in their buying decision.

Finally, to make an impact and influence buyers’ purchase decisions, dealerships need to embrace video and amplify both video and written content to attempt to reach people in the early stages of the customer journey.

Carol Forden is a Marketing Consultant who specializes in Content Marketing for the Auto Industry. Carol can be reached at carolforden.com
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