Do manufacturers, Dealers or service providers know what 60% of new car buyers want?

emarketer recently published a very interesting article on the importance and impact in-media will have on buyers purchase decisions. According to a Harris Interactive poll nearly 60% of car owners said in-car connectivity will have some or a great deal of influence on their next vehicle purchase and 67% for 18 to 35 year olds!

This range of in-car connectivity, also referred to as telematics, ranges from the expected  maps, music and voice communications, to browsing the internet and watching streaming video.  Interestingly, services that read news updates, permit social media interaction or deliver on-demand content already exist. Will this evolution in telematics lead to design innovation.  A single point for plug and play for multiple devices, where one could possibly use their tablet as a dashboard?

As these advanced in-car media options become increasingly important I imagine there will be a foray of new providers in the value chain to deliver these advanced media options.  Owning and managing data will become paramount especially as marketing pathways to influencing customers will evolve.  It will be interesting as to who ‘owns’ the customer relationship as boundaries become blurred; the OEM, the Dealer, the media provider or other Tier 3 service providers.  The question does arise as to whether brands with better relationships with their Dealers will have an advantage because of the assumed sharing of information and data?  Will OEMs become selective in choosing their 3rd party suppliers especially those who work with their Dealernetwork with the additional Tier 1 services they provide their Dealernetwork providing valuable data intelligence and influence?

These changes are not far off but in the short term there is a significant amount that can be done to improve the customer digital experience; from optimised OEM websites with car configurators that provide an enhanced user experience to Dealer Marketing Websites which provide a consistent brand and user experience to the OEM whilst still providing differentiation for the Dealer.  A recent project I was involved in required a review of user experience of luxury OEM manufacturer and dealer websites and the results were shocking with the majority showing they provided average to poor user experience.  Not really acceptable in this post-PC era.  Sadly, most also used responsive design as a band aid to an optimised mobile experience.      A well optimised website is the hub for developing an effective digital experience integrating across all channels.

Need some advice in creating or enhancing your digital strategy?

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Mobile ‘browsers’ ultimately become buyers…

51% of automotive mobile browsers go on to make a purchase, according to the recent report (2012) released by Nielsen Research xAD and Telmetrics.  This survey leveraged actual observed mobile behaviour matched with survey responses to understand mobile consumption and the consumer patter-to-purchase.  The survey covered 3 target industries:

  • Automotive
  • Travel
  • Restaurants

Another key insight was measuring how mobile can impact a purchase decision.  Surprisingly, 62% of potential automotive buyers had not made a decision during their initial use accessing an app or website with their device.

The significance of this shows us that potential buyers can still be influenced into making a purchase of a particular brand with a particular dealership during their initial mobile (re)search, moreover 51% of automotive mobile browsers go on to make purchases, however is your brand or dealership geared up to deliver on customer expectations across multiple devices?

It’s simple, catch up to the 21st century needs of your customer or lose the business to your competitors!

Many experts argue that marketers (and dare I say agencies) have too great a tendency to view standalone apps and ‘adaptive’ design (also referred to as responsive design) as one-size-fits-all solution (magic wand!) to their digital problems.

With this in mind here are 3 key things to consider for your mobile site:

  • User Experience: When adaptive design works it’s great.  However, if you’re just pushing the same content out over multiple devices it totally ignores the usage profile of those devices, for example you may find the image of a car is not fully displayed and gets cropped when viewed on a particular mobile device compared to the website or tablet.  Ensure you understand the differences between web and mobileweb and what the customer expectations are of multiple devices.  If a customer is just getting the same stuff beautifully resized for different screens/devices, you could well be annoying them and you don’t want to do that!
  • Content: One of the biggest fallacies of adaptive design is that it somehow acts like ‘Aladdin’s magic lamp’ – it magically makes content work on mobile.  Adaptive design on its own does not equate to an optimised mobile or table solution! Caveat emptor! (buyer beware).  Mobile is about immediacy, if a prospective buyer is accessing branded content via a mobile, then the likelihood they want corporate spiel is low – they’re probably just looking for a phone number, address or some location based service.  This means rendering the the same content from your website possibly won’t be what they’re wanting.  Content on mobile is often bite-size and specific.  On the other hand if they are on their sofa watching a movie and whilst perhaps surfing on their tablet, they would probably be more receptive to a fuller site; a more in-depth experience. eBay have a really good mobile site, it’s easy to view your watch list, place a bid and communicate with the buyer/seller.
  • Metrics: it can’t be said enough; measure, measure, measure!  The uniqueness of mobile is the ability to specifically target customers.  However, in order to do this one needs to measure the right goals (actions you intend the customer to carry out e.g. click to call, send an enquiry etc.), understand the data and apply it.  For example, how does a customers content needs vary with different times of the day.  If they hold an executive position and juggle the demands of family life, they may be more likely to consume child related promotions before 9am, whilst being more receptive to other personal related promotions during the day.  Needless to say metrics and reporting go hand in hand, and it’s important that you can provide your senior business stakeholders with the relevant key data to access via tablet, mobile or web.
Try and fail fast – test various design and content format and measure to see what works most effectively for your business.


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Why Dealer websites are crucial for the car buyer!

I was recently going through the Cap Gemini 11/12 report which details Information Sources that a prospective car buyer uses in their decision making.  Technology has impacted our lives from social connections, to education and purchase decisions.  Information is now instantly available and channels of communication are faster, interactive and more engaging.  In 2007 the average purchase cycle for a new car buyer was between 4 – 6 months.  Now in 2012 it’s between 1 – 2 months!  In addition the majority only visiting their dealership of choice 2 weeks before purchase.

A car buyer is 3 to 4 times more likely to purchase (generate a lead) on a Dealer website than a national site and from this report  53% of UK car buyers will use a Dealer website for their research compared to 48% using a manufacturer site!  That’s huge.  Yet sadly, many dealer sites do not have a consistent brand experience, outdated content and dare I say take longer than 4 hours to action leads… Result = competition has won the business.

For those Dealerships with great websites (and there are many) they will be testament to the importance of the online showroom – their website!

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Which online channels influence car buyers purchase decisions?

Over the recent Christmas break I was keen to find some new Portuguese restaurants in the South West, so naturally I resorted to social media for my research. In less than an hour I had several tweets with recommendations and a quick search online showed they all had great customer reviews. Result: the restaurant made some new patrons through social word of mouth!

The process is no different for high risk purchases.  Mashable recently published  an article with data from M Booth and Beyond, high recommmenders, those that make purchase less frequently, purchases more expense and/or research requires more time and effort in the research, are 3 times more likely to recommend a product.

Data from M Booth and Beyond survey show top online channels that influence purchase decisions across various sectors.  44% of car buyers use car forums for their research.  The top  influencing channels for car buyers are branded websites, search results and online advertisements.

With this insight and knowledge of how the social consumer is influenced in their purchase decisions Automotive Dealerships and manufacturers should be investing in the following channel to increase their traffic and leads;

  • web and mobile search optimisation
  • monitoring what customers, influencers and opinion leaders are saying about vehicle performance
  • Dealer websites provide customers with a consistent manufacturer brand experience
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