B2B marketing in the automotive sector: why it matters and how to strengthen it

Automotive is a large sector that has long been strategic for the world economy.

Today, however, it is undergoing a phase of great change, dictated by multiple drivers: from digital transformation, to the use of alternative, green fuel, up to the transition from the car as a “good” to the car as a “service.”

In short, the internal processes of this Industry, the market, but also the perception of public opinion and the behaviors of the pool of actual and potential customers are changing. Consequently, the marketing dynamics must adapt to all of this.

Let’s take a look at the current situation. In 2018 alone, 78.6 million vehicles were sold worldwide. In 2009, this number stood at 65.6 million. Growth has been 46% in 10 years. Also in 2018, sales of diesel cars fell by around 18% (mainly as a result of the “dieselgate” scandals). At the same time, sales of petrol cars increased by 12%. The increase in purchases of alternative-fueled cars, which now account for 8% of the market, was as much as 28%. Looking at the Italian ecosystem, we see how the automotive industry, and its supply chain, generates more than €330 billion in revenue and provides jobs for 1.2 million people. The sector recorded 16,287,614 employees in 2017.

These numbers indicate the significance of this sector on the economy, but also show how rapidly the landscape is changing. There are changes in mentality, of course. But there is also the great turning point imprinted by digital transformation. It is in this context that we will look at the role and importance of B2B marketing for the sector and how it must be able to adapt to the times.

 

B2B in the automotive sector

B2C (Business to Consumer) refers to all business operations (and marketing) directed at the final consumer. B2B (Business to Business), on the other hand, concerns the exchange of products and services (and, again, the related marketing operations) between companies themselves.

This is a decisive difference. What is fundamental to highlight right from the start, however, is this: it is always an exchange, a dialog, between people. Behind the sales and purchasing offices of any company there are human beings, each with their individual characteristics. This is why personalization, which we will touch upon later, becomes so important.

B2B is especially relevant for the automotive sector.

Just think of the dozens and dozens of components that are inside every car: from tires and radios, to batteries and computer systems.
Here, most components are supplied to the car manufacturer by other specialized companies around the world: therefore, they are B2B. Often, purchases are made through specialized digital platforms, which are evolving at an increasingly rapid pace.

Then, think about the retailers, dealers, and resellers who sell about 95% of cars to the final consumer (source); again it’s B2B.

But we can go even further upstream, and consider the same business processes: think of the elimination of paper documents, the efficiency gained by relying on companies who specialize in digitization and dematerialization; again, a B2B environment. There are many more examples, but one thing is clear: B2B is important for this sector.

Until a few years ago, B2B marketing strategies were rather crude: there was a lack of awareness of the target audience, and there was a tendency to address the general public in a standardized way. Today everything has changed, thanks to the progress of digital transformation.

Now we’ll look at the 5 main trends and themes impacting the industry.

1. From mobile to omnichannel

Today’s smartphones are working tools. As a result, if you want to initiate an effective B2B marketing program, the first channel to prioritize is mobile (from website optimization, as a starting point, to the creation of responsive interfaces and dedicated applications).

Potential buyers, in short, must have access to information in a way that is quick, simple, intuitive, and possibly interactive, directly from their smartphone. This is the first step, the basic one.

The final objective, however, is to put on track an effective omnichannel strategy (from desktop to tablet to mobile, from email marketing to social media, to “physical” and face-to-face aspects). A strategy that, to be effective, must be as tailored as possible.

 

2. Everything must be data-driven

Initially a buzzword popular in the business world, the term “Big Data” is nearly mainstream. But we need to go beyond this label and the slogans associated with it.

Data is a marketing department’s main ally, but it’s not just about collecting as much data as possible. It’s about the right data, the data that will be most useful for your business (think “Smart Data” or “Deep Data”) and you have to know where to look (and here the importance of omnichannel optics returns). Finally, and, above all, you need to know how to interpret the data (through analytics and artificial intelligence).

The real revolution in business and digital marketing, after all, is played out here.

In essence, it is a matter of learning as much as possible about the customer: the characteristics, behaviors, and needs of your audience. The next step is to divide this generic target into increasingly specific and coherent segments, to be targeted with personalized messages and actions.

Personalization represents the real frontier. Let’s talk about it in the next point.

 

3. The frontier of personalization

Digital transformation has impacted many areas of business and the economy. One of the biggest, perhaps even the main impact is this: it has put the customer at the center of the business.

Data-driven marketing is really aiming at this, and today it is becoming increasingly effective and concrete thanks to the personalization systems that specialized companies such as Doxee make available, both for B2B and B2C.

In a nutshell, it is almost a return to one of the oldest secrets of trade: having deep knowledge of the customer in front of you and being able to address each one in a different way, depending on their unique characteristics and behaviors. This happens by being in the right place on the customer journey, at the right time, and in the right way.

There is no doubt that this type of one-to-one approach, carried out in an omnichannel perspective, is the most effective for both marketing and customer service strategies. It’s also important for companies to realize that these two areas are closely related.

 

4. Video and personalization: the most effective combo

Video marketing is increasingly relevant and important for B2B. Let’s look at the data:

  • 55% of people pay more attention to videos than any other type of content (source: OmniKick).
  • The average user retains 95% of the message contained in a video; this figure drops to 10% when it comes to texts (source).

So, how can we take this further? By combining video with personalization technology.

Through the Doxee Pvideo® tools, for example, you can create communications designed on the features and needs of users, communications that are interactive and customizable in real time. All in an omnichannel perspective.

It is no coincidence that personalized videos have been called as “the marketing breakthrough that brands need.”

 

5. AR and VR: the future?

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are cutting-edge technologies that could be the source of future innovations in B2B marketing for the automotive sector.

For example: think of a components supplier for car interiors. Thanks to augmented or virtual reality, customers could experience (even in a digital reality) the usefulness, effectiveness, and beauty of its solutions.

Of course, for now we are talking about the future. But it’s not that far away.