The role of the Internet during the vehicle buying process has become invaluable in the last few years. Social media wields a growing n ever increasing influence on consumer decision making, and a boom in the smartphone and mobile device market has tightened the online catapulted online customer interaction between customers and for the automotive industry. The number and type of channels consumers use during the vehicle buying process and ownership lifecycle has resulted in a surge in the amount number of possible customer ‘touchpoints’. As the European economy once again looks to be on shaky ground, automotive companies must understand how consumer dynamics are evolving and consider the impact these changes will have upon their business within the coming years, with opportunities to create profit, strengthen customer relationships and enhance brand loyalty.
As the European economy once again looks to be on shaky ground, automotive companies must understand how consumer dynamics are evolving and consider the impact these changes will have upon their business within the coming years.
Consumers are increasingly expanding their web usage during the research process to include social media. According to Capgemini’s recent global automotive study, Cars Online 11/12, 71% of respondents would likely purchase a vehicle from a particular manufacturer or dealership group or manufacturer if they found positive comments posted online about that brand. Moreover, 51% would be less likely to buy a vehicle if they read negative comments online.
The rise of tablets and smartphones for information gathering was also evident in the study. The use of mobile devices is generally highest between one and four months before purchase, with 20% of respondents citing it this as a preferred channel for gathering information.
As well as being used for background research, applications available on smartphones and tablets present an opportunity for customer interaction. As well as a portal for social media, mobile applications also present an opportunity for customer interaction. The applications considered most useful include remote support features, such as remote locking and a parked car locator, cited by over 60% of respondents. Other applications considered beneficial include vehicle information and driving support, for example, such as vehicle health information and diagnostic tools, care information and communications such as roadside assistance.
Those companies that apply themselves online through applications and proper management and analysis of social media content can help strengthen their ties with the increasing number of tech-savvy consumers.
To be as successful as possible, channel strategies also need to consider market variations. For example, the preference for smartphone and mobile car research is higher than the global average in the Chinese and Indian markets, but US consumers use a mix of smartphone research as well as garnering information directly from the dealership, especially in the last two weeks before a purchasing decision. Conversely, in France, consumers are likely to visit the dealership earlier in the buying cycle.
As the buying cycle shrinks, dealers have fewer opportunities to interact face-to-face with consumers, yet the overall number of touchpoints available are greater than ever and will continue to grow. Although the global economy remains volatile, automotive companies that seize the opportunity to take advantage of all possible channels for consumer interaction could capture a valuable sector of the market. Those companies that apply themselves online through applications and proper management and analysis of social media content can help strengthen their ties with the increasing number of tech-savvy consumers. If this presence is supported offline and directs customers to the dealership, this could eventually turn clicks of a mouse and swipes on a smartphone into a rich source of revenue.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Nick Gill is the Global Automotive Sector leader at Capgemini. For more information about the Cars Online 11/12 study, visit: Cars Online 11/12
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