What a whirlwind 2023 has been for the automotive sector. Despite big climate topics such carbon emissions dominating the news, the UK Government have pushed back on the 2030 petrol and diesel new car sales ban, flying in the face of electrification and causing EV sales to drop by 17% according to SMMT data. While this swing away from electric is significant statistically, it is also likely to be temporary, with EV sales expected to snowball as we reach the new deadline. The end game remains the same, but the goal posts have most definitely shifted.
To add fuel to this sales uncertainty fire, Mercedes Australia’s agency model legal win has had global consequences in the ever-changing world of car retail. With more manufacturers now expected to follow suit, albeit some could be waiting for the right time, the car sales process is set to evolve for franchised car dealerships.
More than ever, what customers are buying, and how they are buying, is undergoing seismic changes in the automotive world. And the years leading up to this point haven't exactly been smooth sailing - with lockdowns, used car valuation spikes and a rapid acceleration into digital transactions. For those retailers embracing the evolution with bold moves and clear plans, there's significant opportunity ahead... so, what’s working right now?
Facebook remains the biggest social network of them all, reaching 54.6% of social media users worldwide in 2023, and Meta’s focus on short form video content (Reels) is very much leading the charge when it comes to engaging audiences, grabbing attention, and prompting action.
It's this type of marketing that is crucial to marketing wins today, and building your strategy for tomorrow - video is key to converting Gen Z.
Arguably inspired by the TikTok effect, short form video content is quick to consume, reflecting an increased demand for moving images that can be consumed and digested easily. The entertainment factor is crucial, and the best video content becomes highly shareable.
For automotive retailers and brands showcasing their vehicle range with glossy, inspirational and entertaining videos, it’s been a brilliant year. The benefit of snackable video means that rather than throw one standalone two-and-a-half-minute video into your social media schedule, that same 150 seconds can be split into ten 15 second Reels. Take your audience on a journey with your brand, highlight cool features, and drive a clear conversation.
Less is much more when it comes to video for paid social too – if you can stop the scroll, grab the attention, and gain that click quickly with a super short video, you’ll see more bang for your buck in terms of Click Through Rates. Higher CTR, higher website traffic volume.
From Citroën UK to Maruti Suzuki India, there’s a host of OEMs using Reels and other short form video as a key part of their paid strategy to supercharge their social media results right now – if you’re keen to learn more, check out Meta’s Case Study centre.
Undoubtedly, whatever sector we’re talking about, AI has been a 2023 buzzword in it. From poorly edited photos to wording fails, we’ve seen the ugly side of artificial intelligance this year, and even for those avoiding controversy… often, AI generated text, images and experiences don't quite fulfil audience expectations and needs, leaving potential customers looking elsewhere for help and human connection. For those working hard to keep their communication systems powered by real people, there's huge opportunity for building brand trust, affinity and loyalty.
Utilising your people where they can make all the difference, while still considering AI for more automated tasks, is giving winning dealer groups the edge right now. Our recommendation at OCOCO is to keep your communications and creative human - all too often, for successful marketing and sales, the devil is in the detail. Keep your expert (human) eyes carefully on it!
For data analysis, improving analytics, saving time and streamlining processes, AI can definitely be of assistance, with appropriate oversight. View AI systems as tools that should be utilised by your team to produce the best work possible - better, faster, stronger.
Thinking Mobile First
Not new for this year necessarily, but definitely a continuing trend in at-home browsing and overall website traffic is the shift towards mobile traffic. More than half of all website visits now come from a device other than a desktop PC – and even more specifically, usually a smartphone being held vertically.
This means for those embracing vertical video and visuals, and improved website layouts for scrolling, audiences are more likely to stay longer and interact more.
While the principals of great website design are very much more than a 2023 trend, when digital competition between dealerships is fierce and manufacturers are pushing order direct online solutions, now is the time to take a good, hard look at your website and visitor journey.
If possible, round up a group of friends and family members, and assign each a specific website objective – finding a location postcode, submitting an enquiry on a specific new vehicle, finding a certain colour / year / model of used car… then observe them as they navigate. This data is invaluable, use it wisely to tweak and evolve your UX, and reap a higher visitor conversion rate. Strive for a design that's focused on functionality, as simple as it can be, responsive and consistent - Forbes has some great top tips.
Coming Up In 2024
As the way we research, browse and ultimately purchase changes with technological advancements, the future of car sales is set to continue to evolve. One timeless truth of the automotive retail sector largely looks unchanged though - the power of emotion when selecting your vehicle. Though sales and marketing don't always see eye-to-eye, any experienced salesperson will agree with any successful marketer - it's all about how you make the customer feel.
With Pinterest Predicts forecasting “flirting with dirt” as a key trend for 2024 onwards, we can expect to see more motorists taking a drive on the wild side (with styling at least, as vitally Pinterest suggests that Boomers and Gen X might consider off-roading as more of an aesthetic than a lifestyle)…
And what else can we expect?
The shift towards agency model will further increase digital marketing competition
As the EV-lution continues, audiences are set to expect more education, advice and meaningful support from brands as they consider making the switch to electric
Autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will continue to dominate headlines and inspire the future of driving
We can’t wait to see what the next 12 months brings, because with the challenges of change come huge opportunities for businesses and brands!