Auto brands must go digital

13 October 2011

PARIS: Digital channels such as social media and online word of mouth are playing an increasingly integral role in shaping automotive purchases, multimarket research has revealed.

Capgemini, the consultancy, and SmartRevenue, the insights provider, surveyed 8,000 consumers in eight markets: Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and the US.

Overall, 94% of people reported using the web as a research tool when making car purchases, a figure which has grown from 87% in 2010, and can be measured against the score of 61% logged in 2005.

Elsewhere, 71% of the panel would be more likely to buy a vehicle if they discovered positive feedback on social media, and 51% stated critical comments may reduce the probability of opting for a specific model.

An additional 73% of contributors thought it was "important" to have user-generated content on brand and dealer sites, an improvement from 65% in 2010.

Currently, 37% of people look to dealers' social media pages on the path to purchase, 35% use third-party automotive forums, 28% turn to specialist blogs and 22% watch content on video-sharing sites.

When it comes to actually making acquisitions via the web, 42% of interviewees were "likely" to do so, up one percentage point on 2010, and by five percentage points on 2009.

Among the primary reasons to buy online were securing a lower price discount on 35%, the ease and speed of transactions on 29% and the ability to acquire a vehicle not available locally on 13%.

One consequence of the rise of digital media has been a shortening of the purchase cycle. Some 57% of customers spent less than two months on the path to purchase, and 43% made their first visit to a dealer under a month before buying a car.

Concerning mobile, 68% of the sample would like apps that locked their car, 67% expressed interest in reminders about servicing, 64% desired GPS tools to track down their parked vehicle, and 63% might register to receive manufacturer notifications.

More broadly, Capgemini reported brand loyalty was falling. It found that 61% of respondents would purchase or lease the same marque as their existing vehicle next time round, off from 65% in 2010.

"As technology evolves in the manufacturing and marketing of cars, the industry must ... understand how consumer dynamics are evolving and consider the impact these changes may have on their business," said Nick Gill, Capgemini's global automotive sector Leader.

Data sourced from Capgemini; additional content by Warc staff