The automotive industry is one of the most competitive out there: companies are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and pull ahead of the crowd. And they need to keep an eye on their customers' behaviour so they're able to serve them in the most helpful and effective way possible. Digital marketing plays a huge part in deciding which car manufacturers and retailers thrive, and which ones are left in the dust. So, we spoke to four automotive experts to find out which trends will be informing their digital strategies throughout 2020.
Here are the main consumer behaviours and concerns that you need to factor into your automotive business's marketing plans for the coming year.
Customers know what they want
These days, someone looking to buy a car will typically walk into a showroom with a very clear idea of what they're looking for — and probably even a specific model — in mind. This is because it's easier than ever to do plenty of research into what cars are out there, how they compare, and what kind of vehicle is going to suit their needs and lifestyle. The main reason for this is that there's an abundance of online content out there that people can use to make their decision. People no longer have to rely on the expertise of a car salesperson to point them in the right direction.
This means that failing to offer a lot of high-quality and valuable online content can lead to certain car manufacturers and retailers being counted out of the race very early on. As a result, more companies are recognising the importance of investing time and money into creating content for their websites and social media platforms.
Chris Adams, Operations Director at Brindley Garages Group, says: "Gone are the days when a customer would give us a rough idea of what they’re after; now, they have usually pinpointed the exact car they want. As a business, we’ve adapted our sales and marketing strategy accordingly.
"We’ve embraced a multi-channel digital marketing approach, which ensures we reach our customers at all important touchpoints. From a technical perspective, we have placed a heavy focus on site usability and optimisation, meeting best practices required for online success. Investment into useful motoring and car ownership content has enabled us to introduce our brand to users at the early stages in the research process, while a highly targeted paid media strategy has been employed to drive dealership footfall in critical stages of customer conversion."
It's true that dealerships need to be grabbing prospective customers' attention at every stage of the car-buying process. Here at Glass Digital, our content team help clients with this by creating informational content for relevant audiences, from people who are only just starting to think about replacing their car to those who need help maintaining a new one. It's important to create a bank of online content that addresses all of these stages of the purchase journey.
Our PPC team also help companies to grab the interest of those looking for their products using paid ads. Not only can this help our clients to reach brand new customers who might have never thought of buying from them, but it also allows them to remarket to those who have visited their website in the past. This can often be enough to convince someone to take the plunge and make a purchase.
Voice search is becoming more prominent
Over the years, a lot of bold claims have been made about the popularity of voice search. It's been predicted that 50% of all searches would be made using a virtual assistant by 2020, and 30% of searches would be made on a device without a screen. While these forecasts are still currently unfounded, most marketers do agree that voice search is on the rise, and it's worth taking some steps towards optimising your website with this in mind.
Will Craig, Managing Director of LeaseFetcher, told us: "Previously, our SEO efforts were focused around your typical search that's typed into Google. Now, we’re adapting our SEO strategy and working to optimise content for natural language processing. We’ve already managed to grab a few coveted #0 spots or quick answers in the search engine result pages — these are often used by voice search. Hopefully, by continuing to optimise for voice, we’ll continue to grow our organic traffic."
While there's no need to make optimising your content for search your number one priority, it is worth keeping the rising popularity of smart speakers and virtual assistants in mind when writing your website copy. The main thing to remember is that voice searches tend to be phrased in a much more natural way. If you would like to learn more about all of this, make sure you check out our blog post all about optimising for voice search.
Convenience is incredibly important
We're all busier than ever, which means shoppers prefer a quick and efficient experience, whether they're hiring a car or buying new tyres. So, it's vital that car manufacturers and retailers make life as easy as possible for their prospective customers.
Sian Wilson, Social Media and Marketing Executive at Thrifty, told us: "Automotive consumers are now accustomed to a certain level of convenience and flexibility. We are optimising numerous aspects of our business to meet the needs of our customers. We have updated our website to make it easier for our customers to enquire about our flexible vehicle ownership service 'FlexiFleet' and have started a monthly newsletter to keep our customers up to date in one easy-to-read document."
It's important that all automotive businesses take a leaf our of Thrifty's book by taking steps to offer a more convenient shopping experience for their customers. As Sian has touched upon, it's vital that your website is easy to use and navigate, otherwise prospective customers are likely to get frustrated and move on to a competitor's website.
It's also incredibly important that your page load speed is up to scratch — 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load (Neil Patel). So, don't waste your potential clients' time and ensure they can access any information they're looking for quickly and easily.
This won't just appeal to internet users who are already on your website, either. Ensuring your website offers a positive user experience can also help it to rank well on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs). So, focusing on making the shopping experience as convenient as possible could help you to reach an even wider range of people. Our technical SEO team work hard to ensure our clients' websites run as quickly and smoothly as possible for this very reason.
Customers want to know more about eco-friendly vehicles
As we've mentioned in our recent posts about the trends driving the home and interiors industry and the parenting sector, everyone is becoming increasingly concerned about how their purchases and lifestyles are affecting the environment. And this is a shift the automotive industry is also experiencing.
Rob Harris, Sales Director of Vehicle Contracts, told us: "Throughout 2019, we noticed a significant shift in customers wanting to know more about renewable energy vehicles. The attitude change was noticed by our internal sales team and backed up by website data that showed users investigating hybrid and electric cars more and more.
"As a result of the clear market movement, we altered our digital strategy to focus on the amount of information we can provide for our customers to aid them in making an informed choice on exactly what type of vehicle is right for them. Many drivers are still unsure and have numerous questions on alternative energy, so we need to provide that information easily and clearly more than ever before."
Again, this is where the importance of content comes in. If you ensure that you're giving prospective customers all of the information they need to choose a car that's going to match their values, they'll be far more likely to buy from you. This is because it will show that you genuinely care about them finding a car that works for them, as opposed to just trying to sell them a vehicle that's going to make you the healthiest profit. As previously mentioned, shoppers are also huge fans of convenience so, if they can find all of the information they need in one easy-to-access place, they'll be far more likely to take a shine to your business.
There are a range of ways in which you can provide shoppers with environmental information about the vehicles, parts, or accessories you buy. An in-depth article will typically be the best format if you're discussing a complicated topic that has lots of different facets and needs a thorough explanation, but you could also grab people's attention with some eye-catching social media posts. For example, you could create graphics that let people know how much they could shrink their carbon footprint by investing in one of your electric hybrid vehicles. Or, if you sell car parts and accessories, you could highlight how they're manufactured in a sustainable and eco-friendly way (if that is the case).
This will all go a long way towards establishing your company as an authoritative voice when it comes to buying vehicles or automotive products that are manufactured with the environment in mind, which will stand you in good stead as people's attitudes continue to change.
Here at Glass Digital, we've worked with a wide range of automotive companies, including Lookers, so we're well-versed in helping them to improve their online visibility, reach a wider audience, and make more sales. The points covered in this blog post are informing the digital marketing strategies of some of the biggest automotive businesses out there, and it's important that they also influence yours if you want to stay competitive in this sector.