Current changes to marketing within the automotive industry are being led by the digital consumer. For car brands, this means understanding their consumers in the way online retailers already do. That behavioural shift to digital has already happened and marketers are investing increasing time and effort into expanding their knowledge of their online audience.
Our data shows that the digital auto consumer journey has changed significantly in the past year. The picture is a brutal one:
The online consumer is in a hurry. Between commencing online research and buying a car, the gap has shortened to between four and six weeks. The time between a first visit to a car brand site and any resulting test drive request averages just six days.
Visitors tracked across multiple sites consider an average of 4.2 brands (five years ago the average was just 2.5 brands). Brand loyalty has clearly declined; interest in ‘the deal’ appears to be paramount.
The ‘surfer-researcher’ is hungry for information and impatient to receive it; the average duration of a site visit is two minutes and 51 seconds, and just four pages of content are reviewed on each visit. More than a third of visitors bounce – ie leave the website immediately after viewing just a single page.
Only 21% of visitors ever return to that same car brand site within 90 days, meaning that more than three quarters of visitors do not return within the span of the average purchase cycle.
The online consumer’s primary interest is in product information. 52% of all site visits go to model pages describing the brand’s cars and their characteristics. 21% of visitors will look at a vehicle configurator – online functionality that allows them to choose equipment, colour, and trim combinations for an individual vehicle ready to be ordered.
In the UK, during the first quarter of 2017, Tesla had an online audience equal to a fifth of Ford, the most visited brand. Tesla’s sales may not be there yet, but with registration growth of +74% in the second quarter, it shows the strength of the online data as an indicator of consumer intent.
Automotive marketeers have to become comfortable with such data – lots and lots of it.
Regrettably, over 90% of over 100 automotive digital managers and marketeers in London told Sophus3 that their own people and the mindsets of senior managers in particular were the greatest barrier to meeting these challenges.
However, to reach their audiences, they need to be nimble in its use, able to adapt and change as fast, as consumer behaviour is changing.
Tania Hodgkinson is head of eDataXchange Project, Sophus3.