Best practices for a succesfull automotive digital marketing strategy

The Automotive sector is living in a phase of change that has no precedent in its long and important history. As with other industries, the trigger for this revolution is Digital Transformation.  We analyzed the consequences that this has had on the sector in this post.

Instead, in this post, we want to tighten the focus specifically on the topic of web marketing for the automotive sector and automotive digital marketing strategy. Even here, this subset of the digital world is both very broad and specific. It is enough to think about current consumer habits to realize how the internet has changed marketing forever, and this is also true for automotive industry players like brands, dealers, and retailers.

 

5 best automotive digital marketing strategy

To avoid getting lost in this vast field, in this post, we’ll focus on the best practices and the most effective strategies for brands and retailers in 5 areas: the importance of social media, analysis of the customer journey, data-driven marketing, personalization, and finally new digital customer service processes. We will also include some examples that can serve as a model and inspiration. 
 

1. Social networks are fundamental 

Automotive brands are often companies with a decades-long history, some even centuries-old, with extensive structures and highly consolidated production processes. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t adapt to the speed and fluidity of the world of social networks.

Think of Ford, a brand born more than 110 years ago.  Its social strategy employs storytelling that is consistent with its brand image. The company is noted for its social media strategy and specifically its user engagement, where, on Facebook, for example, it is known for its friendly and prompt response to users’ requests via messaging.

Knowing how to make the most of social networks is also fundamental for dealers. In this regard, consider this data (source):

  • As many as 75% of car buyers said that social networks have been among the most valuable resources of inspiration when it comes to figuring out which model they want to buy.
  • More specifically: 54% of people who intend to buy a car look for opinions and reviews on social networks.
  • Just over a third (34%) of those who have just bought a car immediately post a photo or video of it on social networks.
  • 71% of customers who have had a good experience with a car dealer’s service are happy to recommend it to friends and acquaintances.
  • Finally: the customer journey of car buyers cover an average of 20 touchpoints. As many as 5 of these take place on social media.

In summary, social networks are slippery tools that can backfire on the brand that doesn’t use them well; at the same time, they are also one of the most effective and powerful levers to transform the “consumer” into a “prosumer.”

 

2. A long and complex customer journey 

As we mentioned earlier: The customer journey for those looking to buy a car is long and complex, with an average of 20 touchpoints.  Let’s cross this figure with other data from a study carried out by ACA Research (you can find it here). The average journey of an automotive sector customer can last from 5 to 12 weeks, and develops, roughly, in the following ways: 

  • In the first phase, the customer uses online research to create a list of vehicles and brands of interest  
  • The customer will narrow their selection down to a short-list of vehicles based on online opinions and reviews 
  • Customers will test drive their favorite models 
  • This leads them to make the final choice of vehicle 

This data gives a good idea of the complexity of the purchasing process. Is there anything we can do to take advantage of this process, which happens over such a long period of time?   

If we look at the upstream process, there is a figure that we should take into consideration: 95% of customer journeys start with an online search. These searches can, of course, be tracked through Big Data analysis and with the appropriate interpretation tools. In this way, you can get to know your potential target with greater precision and put on track effective data-driven marketing actions, focusing more and more on personalization (we’ll return to this in the following two points). 

 

3. Guided by digital traces 

The so-called Big Data are the digital traces that we all leave online.  And, as we have seen above, in the search and purchase phases, we leave a lot of them online. Brands in the sector, but also dealers, must learn to collect these traces, to analyze them in depth (for this reason we prefer to talk about “Smart Data” or “Deep Data”), and interpret them in order to better get to know their audience. 

To do this, companies will need to embrace an omnichannel perspective. In fact, keep this in mind: more than 60% of research in the automotive world is done via smartphones (source). 

The collection and analysis of data allows companies to segment target audience and divide it into clusters of users with similar and homogeneous characteristics, behaviors, and probable needs. As a result, these target segments can be hit with increasingly tailored messages. For an example of an effective web marketing campaign, let’s look at BMW and their outreach for the Mini, aimed at a target group of people interested in high-end cars. 

The brand collected data from its CRM systems but also from its website and social channels. Thanks to analysis and machine-learning systems, this specific target was identified efficiently and precisely.  But that’s not all: it was in turn divided into smaller segments based on individual habits, type of device, previous searches, times of day when they were made, and various other signals. 

In short: this operation has tried to go beyond segmented targets to approach real personalizationThe results?  A 300% increase in the conversion rate and a cost-per-acquisition (the unit cost incurred by the advertiser for each conversion obtained) rate of 75% (source). 

 

4. From segmentation to personalization

As we mentioned above, companies can go further than segmentation with personalization. There are companies that specialize in this very field, like Doxee, who can help you put on track digital marketing operations that address individuals in an effective one-to-one dialog. 

For example, let’s look at personalized videos, which are created based on the characteristics of the person to whom they are addressed. Personalized videos can be an incredible boost for any web marketing campaign. According to research for Google by Millward Brown Digital, about 70% of people view videos on YouTube in the earliest stages of the car purchase process.

Companies can exploit the medium of video by combining it with personalization to create a one-to-one video that is dynamic, interactive, and tailored to the viewer. This is exactly what Doxee Pvideo®  tools make possible. It is no coincidence that Forbes defines personalized videos as “the marketing breakthrough that brands need.”
 

5. Taking care of the Customer Service is the first good marketing move

Marketing and customer service are intimately linked, in all sectors, including automotive. Let’s turn our attention to the dealer side:

  • 54% of customers will buy from a dealer who offers them the best experience, even if they don’t have the lowest prices
  • 56% of dealers would buy more vehicles from the carmaker if the process were quicker and easier
  • Car sales could increase by 25% with an improved retail experience that is easier and smarter

Finally, according to data from Capgemini, only 10% of customers who were dissatisfied with their dealer experience will return for their next purchase. In contrast, 87% of “highly satisfied” customers will buy cars of the same brand; and 85% will buy them from the same dealer.

It’s clear: Customer Service has to face the standards imposed by digital companies like Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber that have learned to put the individual user at the center of its business.