OPINION16 December 2016

Looking under the bonnet of how we buy cars

Automotive Opinion UK

Buying a car now involves many levels of research and recommendations, so building brand awareness with engaging content is vital for a car company wanting to standout says Rik Moore.

Car automotive winter driving_Crop

It’s no secret that the way we buy cars is changing.

The oft-quoted Google Gearshift study shows that test drives have dropped dramatically over the past decade, from an average of four down to 1.3. In a bid not to look foolish when they walk into a dealership, the automotive customer is plunging themselves into a world of researching and shortlisting.

This shortlisting process is far from linear, with customers looping back to different stages prior to purchase to ensure that no stone is left unturned and to validate the choice they are making. This leads to an erratic customer journey.

Research suggests the active automotive purchase funnel takes on average between six and 10 weeks. When in the funnel, the rise in prominence of third party sites has been a key trend in recent years. People are still beating a path to owned automotive brand sites to get details, but much of the early funnel research is happening on review and opinion sites, as customers shore up their shortlists.

That’s not to count the period before they start actively searching, when they are subconsciously sponging up a variety of touchpoints, from what their friends and family buy, to what they see on the road, to what they see in the media – both advertising and editorial.

Given the above, the fact that automotive is a category where purchase happens very infrequently, with this intricate customer journey, it means that it is imperative advertisers build an ongoing relationship with consumers.

At Havas Media, our Meaningful Brands study has shown the commercial benefit of building a connection with customers – be that through product, personal benefits, or positive impact on a broader societal level. Given the cost, if you are going to be top of consumers’ shortlists for a new car, you need to have a meaningful connection with them, hence the need to select channels that people trust and engage with over time, and that have proven effectiveness. 

By applying behavioural economics to the customer journey, Newsworks’ How people buy study shows the emotional rollercoaster customers can go through, particularly when buying a big ticket item like a car.

Newsbrands are really interesting in the way they have evolved across multiple platforms, catering to ever more varied audiences. In a world of increased content demand, these are businesses that routinely produce quality content on a minute by minute basis. As such, they provide a perfect platform for content generation and dissemination.

Here are two recent examples of how we have put this into practice for Kia Motors this year:

  • We partnered with The Telegraph for the Euro 2016 tournament, creating more than 100 videos, from dealer events pre-tournament using The Telegraph’s journalistic talent and a host of football legends, to live reporting from France by Telegraph Sport’s website editor  – putting them all in and around the all new Kia Sportage. This created content that built on Kia’s credentials in football, gave readers the chance to win tournament tickets and put our product front-and-centre in credible editorial that resonated with football fans.
  • By teaming up with News UK’s Sunday Times Driving as the relaunch partner for Driving.co.uk, we created 12 editorial-led pieces of content that spanned three of Kia’s new launches – KIA Sportage, Optima and Niro. Content ranged from a ‘Driving with…’ video series where we took talent out for a spin to talk about what ‘drives’ them; creating a kids version of ‘Top Gear’; to letting famous Instagrammers take the vehicle out and document their adventures. All of this multi-platform content ran across News UK’s portfolio of brands, plus Kia owned channels.

Both campaigns created engaging content appropriate for different stages along the consumer journey and delivering in contextually relevant environments – not to mention the fact that the Euro 2016 activity with The Telegraph was highly commended in this year’s Newsworks Planning Awards.

Examples like the above show the benefit of using media touchpoints to infuse the automotive purchase funnel with engaging, useful and relevant content, tailored to each stage to help customers progress their decisions. This approach will help brands build a more meaningful connection which will convert to commercial benefit. Newsworks’ latest research on effectiveness, which shows that investing a fair share of advertiser spend in newsbrands drives increased ROI, demonstrates this.

The way we buy cars is changing, but building connections with potential customers will always be the key to success.

By Rik Moore, head of creative strategy, Havas Media