Selling cars used to be quite a simple process. Own a particular feeling behind the wheel, identify your target driver, flex your engineering muscles, make a TV ad, stir things up on social media and wait for those test drive requests or showroom visits. If they liked you, they’d stick with you. But this world is anything but linear. It’s a digital ecosystem. Buyers are less loyal and they demand more at every stage of the customer journey. So it’s time for car brands to step up.
Car brands need to step up their advertising online
A good place to start is online, where 88% of prospective buyers are researching according to a 2015 Google/TNS Auto Shopper Survey. Digging deeper, a Stateside study by IPSOS for Facebook IO revealed that 72% prefer to do all their research online before going to a dealer for the final transaction. Perhaps the most telling statistic of all is from Accenture’s 2015 global Automotive Digital Survey, which revealed that 75% of the 10,000 respondents would consider making the entire car purchasing process online.
So what does this all mean for brands? Put simply, you need to be where your customers are and provide them with what they need, when they need it. Dealership visits are down (although less so in the UK, apparently). So there are fewer chances to build rapport in person. The good news is that customers are more open-minded than ever. Google’s survey revealed that 72% are not fully decided on their preferred make or model at the start of their journey, and 49% end up changing their mind.
This is a great opportunity to earn consideration early on. You do that by creating eye-catching, emotionally resonant content that makes customers wonder. How can that car be so fast yet fuel-efficient? Why is the grille shaped like that? What makes the engine sound that way? Can I customise it? When can I buy it?
Starting a conversation
One way to get noticed is to explore a topic that’s important to you. Take Citroën’s My Perfect Day integrated campaign, for example. The brand wanted to help Brits fight off the January blues while also bringing to life their “Be Different, Feel Good” positioning. So we set off in a selection of Citroën’s best loved models on a 24-hour tour to find the most uplifting individuals in the country. Twelve short videos were produced featuring the likes of ex-soldier and freestyle skydiving champion Alistair Hodgson, lollipop lady Kath Brown and Britain’s Got Talent stars Old Men Grooving.
To connect online with offline, Citroën’s 24-hour test drive offer became a core part of the integrated campaign, a chance for viewers to create their own perfect day. More than 3,500 people booked one, a 15% over-delivery on the campaign target, and a 196% YoY increase on previous figures. The videos were viewed more than five million times after being seeded on Facebook, YouTube and the brand site.
This is really influential content as buyers are considering their options and research backs this up. Google/TNS Auto Shopper Survey found that 31% take a test drive and 41% visit a dealer after watching a video. When done well, it also makes great business sense because the more engaging it is, the lower your cost per view and hence the higher your potential return on investment.
Showing your personality
Often the most sincere and compelling ideas start with customers themselves. For their #MININOTNORMAL campaign, Mini scoured the internet to find its most loyal brand ambassadors. Their uploaded photos and videos showed the obsessive love Mini owners have for their cars. The brand used these assets for their campaign. Then an entirely new audience began to join in. Mini went one better and employed spotters to salute and surprise drivers using billboards. Within six weeks, 230,000 people engaged with the campaign on social media, nearly 30,000 new followers and fans were recruited, and 3,853 people visited the campaign hub to look for a new Mini with 11% of them becoming qualified leads.
Standing out from the crowd
Virtual reality can dramatically shift brand perception by putting the customer in the driving seat. We’ll go into more detail on the potential of this technology in part three but it’s worth touching on one case study. Volvo wanted to preview its redesigned XC-90 SUV in the US where the BMW X5 and the Audi Q5 hold sway. To add to the challenge, this had to be done months before the model reached showrooms. So they created the Volvo Reality app, which combined photo-realistic CGI with a proprietary 360-degree VR camera technique. Users could see inside and out, and take the car for a virtual test drive using just an iPhone or Android smartphone and Google’s low-cost Cardboard headset.
Building on a brief period of influencer and media outreach, which generated coverage from the likes of Mashable and Fast Company, the campaign was launched with a YouTube homepage takeover supported by paid, social and organic media. The campaign generated over 40,000 app downloads, more than 34,000 additional expressions of interest (which will inform future paid marketing and targeted social ads campaigns). Most importantly, the first run of the XC-90 sold out in two days. Read more about 360 video and VR in our recent blog post.
Getting to know each customer
As more people find and consume your content you will begin to get a clearer picture of their online behaviour. Use these insights to tailor the buying experience to them. One example would be creating more targeted Facebook ads as we did for Citroen, and Acura did for its TLX. In order for them to be helpful and effective sales reminders, they need to be more than a generic brand blast. Home in on their preferred model, colour and configuration.
Another is Toyota’s “multi-point storytelling” campaign for the new RAV4 Hybrid, which featured more than 100,000 social video ads created by matching Facebook users’ interests to the car’s features … and a suitable punchline at the expense of film star James Marsden. If it’s more relevant to them, they are more likely to pay attention.
Land Rover used remarketing to continue the conversation with people who had expressed interest in the Range Rover, either by visiting LandRover.com or watching an Engagement Ad video they’d hovered over. The remarketing ads were designed to fit the customer – the model they were browsing, for instance. The brand has also made good use of Facebook Lead Ads to build interest among mobile users wanting a car quote. These outperformed “find out more” link ads and quartered Land Rover’s previous cost per lead for social media. Citroen’s Perfect Day also used leads ads that doubled form completion and significantly reduced cost per lead. Why do lead ads work? They make life easier for the customer.
This feels like a good place to pause. We’ve established that automotive brands still have to excite and seduce their customers but it needs to be online first and combined with a deeper understanding of the target audience so everything a customer finds feels like it was made just for them.
In the next part we’ll look at how brands can be more useful – from answering commonly searched questions through content, to making tailored TV ads.
If you have a particular marketing challenge that’s keeping you up, let’s talk.