The last several years have seen a lot of changes and innovations in the automotive industry, including car shares, car subscriptions, the rise of car tech and driverless cars. And, after months of social distancing, new consumer behaviors are shaping trends that will impact the automotive industry and car buying as we enter the “new normal.”
A recent Think With Google article identified trends likely to impact car manufacturers and the auto industry moving forward. According to Google’s analysis, “Automotive brands looking to position themselves for recovery will need to adapt to faster industry cycles and shorter planning horizons. They’ll also need to prioritize initiatives that are best aligned with where the industry is headed, such as operationalizing home delivery or further digitizing the automotive purchase process.”
1. People Love Cars Again
The rise of transportation options and diminishing interest in car culture over the past decade has led some consumers to lose interest in car ownership. This trend could change in a post-coronavirus landscape. As ride-sharing and public transportation became impossible or risky due to coronavirus, 93% of people said they were using their cars more. This may not be surprising, but a recent survey from Cars.com also found that 20% of people who didn’t own cars before the pandemic, are now considering car purchases.
2. Car Shoppers Are Looking For Deals
According to Google, U.S.-based search interest for "is it a good time to buy a car" spiked during quarantines, growing more than 9X in the first four months of 2020. Many shoppers are looking for deals, and many automakers are responding by offering favorable terms. Digital marketing strategies have become increasingly important for automotive brands in recent years and even more so during social distancing, when consumers moved car shopping online because going to dealers wasn’t possible. Using digital marketing campaigns to promote promotions and deals will likely be an essential strategy for automakers that want to reach interested shoppers.
3. People Want Car Dealer Experiences From The Comfort Of Home
The move to online car shopping has not diminished consumer interest in the experiences they find at car dealerships. According to the Think With Google automotive trends article, “Auto shoppers ranked the following activities by preference as good alternatives to dealer visits: at-home test drive, review videos, digital showroom, online configurator and VR test drive.”
Consumer interest in YouTube videos that often include road tests, car walkarounds and expert reviews has also increased, and automakers and dealerships should prioritize video content when considering future marketing strategies. Interestingly, during the pandemic, live-stream events, like the rollout of the new Hyundai Elantra, which attracted more than 800,000 views, increased interest in more virtual events from car companies.
4. Frictionless Car Buying And Delivery Resonates With Consumers
If there is anything that seems to universally unite shoppers, it’s an interest in fast, seamless, unfettered purchasing. Obviously, cars cannot be bought with one tap, but creating easier buying experiences for car purchases and deliveries could increase sales for manufacturers. 18% of car buyers would buy cars sooner if they could do it online, with at-home test drives and vehicle delivery presented as alternatives to going to dealers.
The automotive industry, like so many other verticals, will be evaluating consumer behaviors and recalibrating marketing and sales strategies now and in the future. There’s no way to know how many changes will stick, but understanding consumer mindset is the first step to reaching consumers who may be increasingly comfortable with new ways of shopping and interacting with brands.
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