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Social media is more important than ever for the automotive industry

As the world begins to emerge from its cocoon, many things that were considered normal in February have been turned upside down. People still need to socially distance, and this time of pause has forced people to really think about how they interact with others, companies included. So, how does a car manufacturer sell a relatively large physical object without bringing a person to a dealership? Trends are shifting – not just in car-buying but how consumers interact with the automotive industry. 

It’s quite simple really: by using the power of social media. 

Social media is a strong weapon in a marketer’s arsenal and shouldn’t be something that just gets tacked onto the global marketing campaign as an afterthought. As an active process, primarily at top of the funnel in a company’s marketing mix – it helps increase brand awareness, engagement with people who already own products or are considering products, reinforces the brand’s values and ultimately will sell vehicles. 

Online content is consumed at an enormous rate and most people that a manufacturer wants to target already use social media as one of the 24 research touch-points, 19 of which are digital, in understanding the company, its products and how best it can help them. Adaptly reported that 90% of new vehicle buyers that used social media throughout their decision-making process felt it influenced their final decision.  14.5 hours are spent discovering touch-points when buying a vehicle with nearly nine hours spent researching and shopping online. This is why companies can’t consider social media marketing as an afterthought, using existing assets to just fill the hole. Content should be created to make the most of the platforms where it is going to live – ensuring images, GIFs, videos are created in the right formats and cropped for each platform. The result being less investment in creating assets – essential in the new, lean normal. 

2,311,140 cars were sold last year in the UK, with the industry forking out an average of £1.94 billion on digital ads, both of which were reduced due to the uncertainty of Brexit means it is a crowded market and to stand out, your brand needs to have a positive impact on every one of the consumer’s touch-points during their purchase journey. 

Be Social First 
Television has been a key advertising tactic for the automotive industry for generations with around 50% of all spend going to television ads. It can convey the strong emotional brand images but when viewership is on the downturn, costs to get to those audiences are on the rise, so companies have a choice – increase spend in TV or look elsewhere. By shifting to social, the target audience is already engaged as they are already researching online. It isn’t simply replicating the TV ad on social media – it is creating content that is enhanced by the medium. A 360-degree video of a car’s interior or a dynamic advert giving more information on a product all in one place can do a lot more for awareness and consideration than an expensive TV ad. 

Renault UK used a tactic to reduce its cost per lead by nearly 8X. By using Facebook lead generation ads with a dealership list to push the sale of its new SUV, the Kadjar, consumers could schedule a test drive at their nearest dealer instantaneously. This level of immediacy and capturing people when they are already engaged with the social post was able to reduce the company’s cost per lead by 7.9X.  

Digital Buying 
Dealerships, more than ever, are outmoded places to visit when looking for a car – generally out of the way meaning a potential customer will have to spend a fair chunk of their day just to visit a car and then be greeted to a somewhat intimidating experience where sales people hover around trying to grab a sale. Some companies have realised this is a draconian format and have evolved.

Take Polestar and Tesla as examples. Sales locations are in high footfall areas like shopping malls and it’s more of an immersive experience than a hard sell. People are encouraged to try things out, ask questions and leave with a lasting impression. Granted this is still a brick-and-mortar location but it is a case of going where the audience is, rather than trying to entice them to where you want them to be.

Collecting Cars is a brilliant example – a relatively new company that offers cars for sale through an online auction site, with only limited physical viewings, consignees are asked to send over 100 images so that the vendor can accurately match it to the history and description of the vehicle. 

Social is a two-way street
Traditional advertising was a fairly simple affair – create the ad, publish it and, if everything went to plan, see a surge in purchases. But in this digitally savvy world, companies need to interact and listen to their consumers. They steer market trends – going green and ride sharing, for example – and the earlier an automotive manufacturer implements these changes, the easier it is to lead the conversation. 

This is also the case after the sale, the interaction between consumer and company doesn’t just end there, companies should hyper-target consumers post-purchase with offers for servicing, checks, aftermarket options and, further down the product life cycle, the option to upgrade. 

Social not only lets manufacturers and retailers communicate with consumers away from brick-and-mortar locations, it also keeps that conversation going throughout the purchase cycle. Keep giving your consumer useful, thought-provoking content, show them you care and, in two to three years’ time, when they’re ready to make another purchase, the chances are they’ll come back. Miss out on that opportunity at your peril. Your competitors won’t.

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