When you are going to buy something that costs as much as a car, you need to have done some research beforehand, otherwise you’ll risk finding yourself at the mercy of an unscrupulous car dealer who sees the opportunity to offload an old banger and make a nice little earner. In the pre-internet age, research meant word of mouth, reading car magazines or maybe watching Top Gear, but today we have the ability to be much more clued-up, thanks to the impact of digital in the car buying experience.
Doing The Research
Just as it has disrupted the taxi industry, the internet has changed things for car dealers, giving us the ability to find out everything there is to know about every car we could possibly buy. From the very start of the process we can see what kind of car we could afford, comparing prices and seeing where to get the best deal. According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, 60% of car buyers say that digital channels are now their primary source of information-gathering, while 50% of car buyers would consider making the actual purchase online.
The same survey showed that car dealers say only 5% of potential buyers are showing up less than highly informed on their first visit, which demonstrates the sea change in the way we buy cars: relying more on what we can find out than what we can be advised to do by the professional salespeople. For most of us, the car-buying decision is one we need to think carefully about because it represents such a large amount of our income going on one product, so it’s natural that we use the tools available to help us make the right decision.
Micro Moments In Car Buying
Given the way we now take on so much responsibility for doing research into buying cars, the way we are sold them has had to change and become more sophisticated. Dealers and manufacturers know that very few of us will walk into a showroom like a blank canvas ready to be sold to; instead we are savvy consumers who will interact with their brands across many channels even when we’re not yet thinking of buying a new car, and they need to work harder to get our attention.
Last year, Google published data from Luth Research that demonstrated how Micro Moments and Moment Marketing philosophies are used by car brands and dealers. The following key Micro Moments were identified as part of the purchase process:
- Which-car-is-best moments
- Is-it-right-for-me moments
- Can-I-afford-it moments
- Where-should-I-buy-it moments
- Am-I-getting-a-deal moments
Google used the example of ‘Stacy’, a mother of two who was looking to lease a bigger car for her growing family and the data showed that she made over 900 digital interactions with a view to leasing or buying a new car. Most of these (71%) were made on mobile, a pattern that demonstrates how much the car-buying process is embedded in our lives, rather than being something that we set aside time for, sitting at a computer to do the research.
Automotive Buying Trends
Those 900 digital interactions show that brands need to do more than simply sell cars to us through adverts; they need to be aware of all of the influences on the car buying process, and make sure that they are visible everywhere they need to be. If someone like Stacy is searching that many times for a wide range of topics around buying a car, any brand that wants to succeed needs to be offering solutions to her needs by appearing everywhere she will be looking.
The increase in mobile usage in the car buying process gives consumers the ability to find out everything they want to know about a car they have just seen in the street or during a show on TV, so brands need to be responsive to these kind of impromptu searches. They also need to know which channels are the most effective to use so that they can focus their attention and spend.
The TNS Media Consumption Report in 2015 showed that 69% of people who used YouTube while buying a car were influenced by it, which put it ahead of TV, newspapers and magazines. There were more than 3 million hours worth of car review videos watched on YouTube in the first nine months of 2015 alone, while test drive videos and walkthroughs were also popular.
New Tools For The New Age
As our habits at the consideration stage of car buying become ever more digital, the tools that we use are getting more sophisticated. Currently the most popular tools, according to McKinsey & Company include brand comparisons, online car configurators and online chats with dealers, while the dealers themselves favour the kind of online tools that can take the place of physical processes like test drives. The more that brands can use interactive media and AR technology to bring the dealerships to our homes, the easier and more convenient it is all-round.
There are clearly great opportunities for those companies who want to sell their cars to us in this digital age, but only for the brands who stay on top of the latest technology and trends. The McKinsey & Company research demonstrated that over half of consumers still saw dealer visits as important in the process, but for consumers, the power is increasingly in our hands (literally, when it comes to mobile searches) and we have never had so much information out there to help us make that decision.
Have you used digital technology when buying a car, and if so what did you use? Get in touch @mporiumgroup