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How 2020 Trends and Insights are Reshaping the Automotive Industry

Mobility is a necessity in any community and a basic human need. With sheltering-in-place still encouraged, many commuters have been working from home, and consumers are rethinking their transportation options. 

The automotive industry was impacted with the closure of multiple production hubs due to COVID-19. Even so, many automotive brands have been well-positioned to respond to the current climate with their ability to be nimble and adaptive during challenging times. As an industry, they have had their fair share of unprecedented disruptions prior to the pandemic from the 2008 economic crisis, the rise of autonomous vehicles, electrification to shared mobility.

Over the last few months, we witnessed how quickly automative brands can adapt to changing consumer behaviours and respond successfully. By creating incentive programs to help consumers financially, making contactless servicing available, and shifting in-store consumer journeys online—some of these digital shifts are likely to remain. In order for automotive brands to keep pace, it’s important to prioritize initiatives that respond to consumer trends and industry expectations.

How Emerging Trends Are Affecting Automotive 

Digital tactics in this industry have not only demonstrated efficiencies in helping to promote the safety of consumers and employees at scale, but have also revolutionized an outdated traditional long-drawn-out buying process at the dealership. Companies such as Carvana, Vroom and Cars.com have proven to provide a more complete and integrated online customer experience that consumers have been craving.

J.D. Power has forecasted that the pandemic will accelerate online car buying, which will account for 25% of retail sales by 2025. While we can’t predict the future, we list below a few top consumer trends that have been evolving that we expect will remain as consumers start to take control of their car-buying process: 

  • A majority of their research is done over the internet, spending an average of 11 hours online and attending virtual events
  • Dealership experiences that are close to home are growing in popularity, such as VR test driving or at-home test drive (where the dealership brings the vehicle to your home to test drive), or even just simply having the ability to enter a digital showroom for a virtual experience of the vehicle
  • The ability to book an appointment with sales representatives online is favoured
  • Consumers want to be able to buy their cars online—currently about 43% of car buyers are willing to complete their entire purchase process online
  • At-home delivery options and contactless services are increasingly popular
  • Consumers want incentives and discounts, including no-charge maintenance on new purchases

3 Key Programmatic Solutions to Win the Digital Engagement Battles

While auto marketers have quickly shifted from offline tactics to online, there remains a lot of digital infrastructure to be implemented to meet online car purchasing demands. In the meantime, keeping your audience engaged and informed has never been more important. It is a fact that consumers are spending more time online, but there are many brands outside of the automotive industry that are also trying compete for audience attention online. So how can marketers further engage with potential auto-intenders digitally?

1. Amplify Content Through Native

Millennials will account for 45% of the vehicle buying cohort. Fact—individuals from this generation are digital natives that are highly confident in using the internet to conduct personal research throughout their vehicle shopping experience. By first identifying users who are actively reading about specific keywords and phrases, you can then leverage native to encourage users to learn more about a specific model, a newly released product feature or vehicle comparisons. With consumers conducting their own research, your brand should produce highly informative content to fuel their decision making process. 

Depending on the creative messaging of your ad and content within your landing page, it can be used as an upper- or mid-funnel tactic. It can either demonstrate how your brand is meeting consumer demand as they embrace the new reality of working remotely, or can guide consumers through the new norm of online vehicle purchasing. 

2. Showcase Product Features and Model Specs Through Video Content

With all the time in the world surrounded by different devices and no place to go, people are directing their attention to their devices as an outlet for connection and entertainment. Time spent watching video content digitally has been on the rise—significantly contributed by an increase of connected TV (CTV) viewers from February 2020 to August 2020. However it is also important to consider that mobile is not the only driving force of video content views, especially in a pandemic year. Consumers have adjusted their habits, and are watching more video content on desktops, laptops and connected TV devices.

Auto marketers that want potential buyers to engage with specific models should leverage video to highlight product features by demonstrating a walk around of the vehicle or providing an interior view of the model. Video is a great format to help you bring features to life, puts the users in the driver seat, and enables you to showcase a desired experience. You can capture the interests of the viewers while they watch from the comfort of their homes. Pairing video formats with device targeting capabilities can help you hone in on reaching your desired target audience, while ensuring your media dollars are spent effectively. 

3. Stay Top of Mind With Your Loyal Boomers

Fact—since the pandemic, 47% of baby boomers have increased their time spent digitally. Baby boomers have been the ideal auto customers, as many of them view vehicles as a symbol of self-expression and status compared to the other generations. Don’t lose touch with this loyal customer because of the pandemic. Instead create content to re-engage with your boomers. 

The best way to achieve this and still reach other generations is through the creatives that speak their language. To ensure you set up your campaign as efficiently as possible, you can leverage Creative Tactics. Instead of creating multiple campaigns targeting one demographic at a time, with a specific budget, include all demographics from different generations in one campaign. Let the DSP do the heavy lifting by displaying the specific message that will resonate best with each audience group.

As we continue to weather the ever-changing and uncertain situation, and as consumer behaviours continue to shift, auto marketers should consider the insights provided to align with the emerging trends. Staying nimble and adjusting your multi-channel holistic marketing plan will only further nurture your leads at every touchpoint of their journey in today’s auto marketplace. 

Need help reframing your current national, regional, or dealership strategy? Reach out to your StackAdapt Representative to reframe your short term strategy for long-term gains.

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