Hello car manufacturers, there is something new afoot with consumers who are changing the buying game. It’s the click-and-swipe process that is replacing shoe prints in a car showroom. Increasingly, consumers are choosing the digital domain, particularly the mobile phone, as their go-to place to make purchasing decisions.
So, car brands that don’t take the front seats in the initial consideration set (also called the first-choice category) can “interrupt” consumer decision-making. Why? Because when consumers have questions, absentee brands will lose the opportunity to address them and convert potential buyers into confirmed purchasers. It’s pure logic.
You want to buy a car. You already have a few brands in mind. Why have you selected these particular brands? Because they tug at your heartstrings due to these possible reasons: a) brand appeal; b) communication; c) warm and effective messaging; d) going beyond usual PR narratives; e) performance-based trust-building.
Your shortlist at this stage is called the initial consideration set. In my previous post, I discussed what brands must do to become members of this privileged club. The most significant perk of this membership is it boosts their chances – up to three times – of becoming a purchase compared to non-club entities.
The next stage is the active evaluation phase. It is the decisive point, and auto brands that did not make it to the initial consideration still have a chance to jump the queue and get in.
In the active evaluation phase, consumers may expand their brand choices to include more names post the initial consideration set.
So, what must car makers do? Keep their foot on the pedal and speed up their content and SEO strategy – the two are mutually dependent- to help consumers decide in their favor. With compelling content that speaks directly and empathically to their target purchasers, car makers can elbow out competitors. Remember, all is fair in love and car sales. Complacency is a death wish; unethical moves are killers, and integrity and willingness are the best allies to track and master changing consumer behavior.
Car buyers are extraction experts; they endlessly trawl the digital space to pull information, and if car makers are not fast enough to put out that information, there are no guesses for who will be the loser. Not the consumer, indeed, because one auto-maker’s laziness is another’s golden opportunity to take up that space.
A McKinsey study found two-thirds of active-evaluation touchpoints involve consumer-driven marketing activities, including Internet reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, and in-store interactions and memories of previous purchases.
What’s the remaining third? Content and information shared by the company.
Sure, traditional marketing remains important, but consumers’ decision-making is changing, so marketers must go beyond push-style communication and focus on word-of-mouth and the Internet, which are the contemporary favorites of buyers.
The mobile phone is a parallel universe where most humans have taken up residence. With swipes and screen taps, people are checking out cars, their features, cost, and availability just about anywhere they sit, stand, or lie down. A host of intent-driven micro-moments elapse during the research as the devices provide answers, whether they are trying to identify the safest car, the most room for a family of five, or the lowest monthly payment. These ‘intent-driven’ moments are gold for auto marketers and how they respond to them influences car buyers’ purchases.
However, what do these micro-moments contain? To map a consumer’s purchase path, Google analyzed their searches, clicks, website visits, and video views. The analysis offers insights into crucial auto-buying moments:
- An active evaluation phase lasts three months, during which a consumer intentionally seeks out information about an automobile.
- These interactions include searches, visits, video views, and clicks on Google, YouTube, manufacturer, dealer, and review websites.
- Consumer research typically entails 139 Google searches. These 139 occasions present auto marketers with 139 opportunities to deliver relevant and valuable content that could influence their decision.
In this post, I will highlight the micro-moments of an auto buyer during the purchase process.
Approximately 6 out of 10 car buyers are unsure of the car to buy when entering the market. Initially, they focus on family-friendly features and safety, leading them to consider several models and brands.
A buyer’s checklist of essential features takes form as they weigh practical considerations such as seating capacity and airbags.
During the narrowing down of options, the cost is a critical factor. Consumers explore options for pricing and payment and actively search for what suits them.
Many car buyers still visit a dealership as part of their car-buying process, though much of the process has moved online. Recent years have seen a double-digit increase in searches for “car dealerships near me.” When consumers explore nearby dealerships, they look for inventory, deals, and special offers.
Consumers research deals on and off the lot despite many am-I-getting-a-deal moments at the dealership. The research involves lease money factors, ways to not deal with a dealer, and checking crowdsourcing prices for different brands and models.
Don't take the horse to the water; make a pond where it stands
That should be the undying motto of auto manufacturers. Consumers ultimately purchase a car that validates their micro-moments. Therefore, Google searches, and the hundreds of interactions that follow, represent a fantastic opportunity for auto marketers to say, “Hey, we are here for you. How can we serve you?”
Here are some vital questions auto brands must ask themselves:
- Are we meeting potential car buyers at each stage of their buying journey?
- Does my brand appear in the micro-moments space? (Most car shopping takes place online and increasingly on mobile, so car brands need to be accessible when and where people are searching. They have to ensure that their media plan makes it easy for auto purchasers to locate answers, especially on search engines.
- How communicative is my brand? (It is not enough to be just present; car marketers must also consider how their brand can benefit customers. What is their brand’s response to consumer questions about safety, seating capacity, price, and others? Do they provide consumers with an easy way to compare models and competitive brands?)
- Am I connecting the consumer’s micro-moments? (This is an automaker’s responsibility).
- Am I measuring my brand’s share of these critical moments?
Micro-moments are nothing but content
All the consumer research, perspectives, weigh-ins, and considerations are based on just one thing: content about the car brand. That’s the influencer. Everything that a prospective buyer is looking at involves putting out information by way of words, images, messages, and intent. All this is driven by clarity, integrity, and sincerity.
So, the last set of questions car marketers must ask of themselves is about the quality of their content:
- How good is my content?
- Is it innovative, warm, engaging, narratively inventive, or just plain vanilla?
- How consistently is our content available to buyers?
- Are we telling our buyers a story they can trust and enjoy and want to return for more?