How Search & Social Media are Driving Car Sales

How to give your automotive digital strategy a bit of extra throttle

In times gone by

In a recent survey carried out by AutoTrader, most car buyers are undecided at the start of the shopping process.

When potential customers first begin to shop, 6 out of 10 of them are open to considering multiple vehicle options. However, in a world full of choice, it’s important to stay visible throughout the many different touchpoints in the buyer journey.

According to Google, the average car shopper makes only 2 visits to a dealership when choosing a new car. A decade ago the average was 5. The reason? The internet.

Thinking all the way back to when I passed my driving test, it was an exciting day when I set off with my dad to choose my very first car. However, it was not my mobile phone or even a computer that I
used to help with that decision making process. Instead, it was the good old Surrey Advertiser, our local newspaper. My dad and I put together a shortlist of local car dealers from the automotive section and off we went.

I remember that day quite vividly, it quickly became clear that my dad and I were not quite on the same page about which car we thought would be a suitable first car. My heart was set on a Mazda MX5 whereas my dad was unfortunately set on a Ford Fiesta… needless to say, my first car was indeed a Ford Fiesta.

More recently, my latest car was purchased directly from a dealership, but the journey I took was very different. It started with online research, I turned to Which? Car of the year and carbuyer.co.uk.

Once I had decided upon the make and model, I visited three dealerships before making the final purchase. That was only a couple of years ago, I wonder how different the journey would be now? Fully digital for one and with a lot more devices, not to mention the use of video and social media.

However, consider:

Google stats show that 34% of all car buyers start with an online search

This beats social media, regional post and advertising.

Search and YouTube are driving sales

According to Google, the early research moments are now heavily influenced by video, and this looks set to only increase. As you can see from the diagram below taken from Think with Google:

69% of people who used YouTube while buying a car were influenced by it

Google goes on to say that looking back to 2015, within the first 9 months alone, 3 million hours of auto review videos were watched on YouTube – this figure alone is quite something and I’m sure in the last few years this will have only increased.

69% of people who use youtube while buying a car

You’ve decided on the make and model you want… that small but beautiful Mini, when disaster strikes and you realise you can’t fit your rather large dog in the boot.

It’s at these reality vs lifestyle moments that again sees the auto buyer turning to video to help with their decision. Looking at some stats by Google, the top types of videos that car buyers search for include test drives, highlights of features, and options and walkthroughs of the interiors and exteriors.

1 in 3 shoppers use a mobile phone

 

Don’t get me wrong, the dealerships continue to play a crucial role in the car buyers journey.

They need to ensure they have an excellent web presence which is optimised for mobile devices, so when someone does start carrying out the research on price, vehicle features and options the information is easy to find and read.

The importance of Google My Business

You’ve carried out extensive research across multiple devices and platforms. The difficult decision now is deciding where to buy the car? According to Google, search plays a big part in this buying phase.

200% growth of search terms like ‘car dealerships near me’ since 2015.

One of the vital tools to help your business presence grow online is Google My Business. This allows a business to show in their local area with ease, allowing a customer to easily search for whatever product or service they require. With Google My Business being a free tool to use, it should be a must have to help drive your online presence.

The great advantage is the effect that Google My Business has on local searches. To give an example, if you were to search ‘car dealers in Surrey’, you would find all of the relevant businesses labelled within that sector in your search results. Google also processes this information into a detailed Map of the individual locations, allowing users to compare travel locations, distances and times.

That’s not all though, searches for local dealership reviews have seen a big spike in the past few years – with desktop searches being carried out more frequently during the week, with

mobile then taking the lead by 56% at weekends

It’s therefore important for dealerships to not only have a good web presence but to use social media platforms around them to promote reviews and testimonials. They need to ensure they have a good review presence on their website which is easily viable.

So to summarise, yes, the automobile industry is going through a period of change, and the way we buy and sell cars has changed quite considerably.

However, this gives car manufacturers and dealers a great opportunity. There are now a lot more touchpoints in the auto buying journey and most of those are now digital, but providing you are visible at each of these touchpoints you will increase your chances of winning that customer.

Only 22% of the first brand searched is the same brand that is purchased

Must have strategy

Ensure the following four takeaways are implemented properly and there’s no doubt that you’ll see an increase in engagement with your brand.

Mobile

Ensure you are fully optimised for a mobile device, to reiterate one in four auto buyers turns to their mobile every day to carry out research.

Video

With 69% of car buyers being influenced by video over TV and newspapers, is this a channel you can afford to ignore?

Search

With search being the most commonly used source out of word of mouth, television ads and dealer visits this has to have an important place in your strategy.

Digital ad-spend for automotive will break $14 billion by 2020, according to industry experts, which is a 200% increase year on year

Social Media

There is still a big opportunity with social media and it looks like a lot of dealers could be missing a trick.

Of automotive buyers who used the internet, 22% use a social media site as a source while shopping for their new vehicle

The most popular social media sites used by auto buyers during the shopping process are YouTube (13%), DealerRater (7%) and Facebook (5%). (D. Power 2016 New Autoshopper Study)

If you’re facing any challenges with your current automobile strategy or looking for a fresh perspective, feel free to contact the Digital Clarity team to hear how we’ve helped other clients in this sector.

Mel Hosegood
Mel has worked in the Digital industry for over 12 years in a variety of customer facing roles. At Digital Clarity she helps forward thinking companies serious about online growth through Search, Social Media and Analytics. Mel’s background hails from helping well-known brands grow their digital departments by creating strategic human capital programmes, through to strategy planning for medium to large enterprises across a number of industry verticals.
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