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Automotive Trend Report: How Digital Media Is Transforming the Car-Buying Experience

Consumers are browsing and buying in an increasingly online world, and digital and social media have enveloped many of the traditional retail roles. For the automotive industry, this doesn’t mean the decline of the dealership; it just means a new role for dealerships and an expanded role for digital marketing. Today’s car buyer interacts with an average of 24 research touchpoints, and most of these touchpoints are digital – from OEM and dealership sites to consumer reviews and social media. Parallel to retail trends across industries, modern consumers kick off their automotive research online, making digital media the new bedrock for automotive marketing.

Social media is essential to the digital marketing mix, allowing brands to connect with consumers, deliver timely touchpoints, and win share of mind. That’s a powerful bid for automotive brands in a fiercely competitive market. But many automotive brands are just scraping the surface when it comes to social media tactics and larger digital marketing strategies. With car buyers’ awareness and consideration stages spent almost entirely online, automotive brands are well-positioned to grow their customer base by investing in social and digital media opportunities.

Automotive Industry Infographic Stats

Automotive Marketing on Social Media

Social media marketing has become an essential tool in every industry, and automotive brands are no different. Our data shows that social spend among auto marketers is trending upwards, with the vast majority of media spend (87%) dedicated to Facebook and Instagram in 2018. This aligns with car consumer trends, which show 80% of prospective car buyers begin their searches online. 53% of people use multiple devices to conduct research, especially mobile devices where social media reigns.

Auto marketers invested most heavily in mid-funnel tactics in 2018, dedicating 46% of their Facebook budgets and 64% of their Twitter budgets to the consideration stage. Instagram spend was split across the funnel, leaning slightly more toward awareness (40%) than consideration (28%) or conversion (32%) in 2018. Conversion spending is an area for growth for auto advertisers on Instagram, up 14 percentage points from 2017 to Q1 2019, compared to only 9 points on Facebook over the same period. Early 2019 data indicates that automotive ad spend will be more evenly distributed across awareness, consideration, and conversion on Facebook this year, an indicator that social media continues to play an influential role in each stage of the buyer journey.

Automotive Social Spend by Platform Data

Our data also shows lower-than-average spend for auto advertisers on Pinterest and Snapchat compared to related industries like CPG and apparel. Here, automotive marketing spend tops out at just 1-2% of budgets for the last three years. While not unsurprising – these channels don’t always seem a natural fit for the demographics or value-based psychographics of the auto industry – these figures signal a conservative approach to social media and likely a gap in dynamic marketing efforts.

Top Trends in the Automotive Industry

The rise of digital media has changed the car-buying experience; according to Think With Google, today’s consumer will make on average just two trips to the dealership during their purchase journey, otherwise spending the majority of their time online. This doesn’t only change the role of dealerships and salespeople – it also changes the fundamental role of the customer, giving them far more power. This empowered customer uses the vast information available at their digital fingertips to discover brands, weigh options, and ultimately make purchasing decisions. To remain relevant in a crowded market and to deliver on customer expectations for convenient and accessible information, automotive brands need an exhaustive digital marketing strategy.

Click below to download our 2019 Automotive Trend Report to discover the top four trends driving the industry today. We’ll break down how these trends will impact your brand and share takeaways that help you prepare for the future of car buying.