Digital and the dealership, at the heart of marketing trends in the automotive sector

At the end of 2018, Kantar TNS and 366 unveiled the results of the second edition of the Drive survey. An opportunity to discover the major marketing trends in the automotive sector, such as the importance of the physical point of sale, the rise of digital, the effectiveness of media advertising or the complementary relationship between the Internet and the dealership.

Digital, the gateway to buying a car

Digital continues to grow and is gaining even more traction in the car-buying process. This, in a nutshell, is what the second edition of the Drive survey tells us. Conducted by Kantar TNS and the advertising agency 366 , this study looked at the purchasing practices of 3153 motorists over 12 months. The study tells us that 33% of motorists consider the Internet to be one of the most decisive factors in their purchasing decision, particularly when selecting vehicle options (61%) and comparing prices (29%). In fact, 84% of them make an appointment at a dealership after doing a web search. This is clear proof that the Internet is still the first source of information and the preferred gateway before a car purchase.

Confronted with the Internet, dealerships fight back

Although digital is revolutionizing car buying, 4 out of 10 car buyers still believe that the dealership is the most decisive point of contact on their journey to purchase a new car. Indeed, an impressive 61% of respondents consider the physical dealership to be a decisive element in the purchasing process, and 24% of them go to a dealership only to finalize their purchase. However, the motivations are no longer the same as in the past: dealership customers are no longer really looking for advice or for a price quote. It is mainly services that are not available online that are popular within the dealership. Motorists replied that they go to dealerships for the following reasons: test drive a car (35%); see and touch a car (29%); finalise their purchase (31%); negotiate the sale price (28%). The second most decisive factor in the purchasing decision is the opinion of friends and family (28%), followed by the Internet, which only receives 17% positive responses.

The physical point of sale – still appreciated by motorists.

In view of these results, it is understandable that the French are not yet ready to buy a car online (e.g.; Facebook with the Marketplace). Dealers are doing everything they can to keep it that way and are bending over backwards to satisfy their customers. This is why motorists still have a high opinion of physical outlets. According to the Drive survey, the cleanliness, clarity, comfort, modernity and signage of the dealerships are appreciated by buyers (with scores above 4/5 for each item).

However, the survey also found that dealerships have a lot of catching up to do in terms of the technology available on-site. Motorists expect more, in particular they want to see see more car-configuration tablets (71%) and holographic simulators (66%). These figures show that customers want to mix the advantages of physical and digital point of sale. But will dealers be able to make this shift to digital?

A sector still largely driven by traditional advertising

For the foreseeable future, brands and dealers can rely on one important element: ROI (return on investment) remains very strong in the sector. As proof, media advertising remains the main trigger for calling in to a dealership: for 38% of respondents, 7 points higher than in 2016. In order of importance, television is the channel that motivates most people to go to the physical point of sale, followed by the press and finally posters. Brand status is also on the rise, with 28% of buyers visiting the dealership thanks to this element, compared to only 22% two years ago. However, all other advertising channels are declining, including email (from 21% in 2016 to 14%), SMS (from 16% to 10%) and mailboxed leaflets (from 9% to 6%).
But for advertising to be effective and make motorists want to visit a dealership, it must have three characteristics in particular. The message must be clear, the commercial offer must be attractive and the brand and models must be highlighted.

Digital and the point of sale: growing complementarity

The Kantar TNS/366 study finds that customers put more thought into the car-buying process now than in the past. The development of the Internet and the possibilities offered by digital media allow motorists to take the time to learn, compare and mature their decision. All these elements confirm that digital remains the preferred tool of the French to buy a car. Internet visitors use it to analyse models, choose options, search for the best deals, configure the vehicle or find information about a dealership.

And yet, despite this, only 7% of buyers surveyed used the Internet to finalize their purchase decision. In reality, the web is first and foremost an information support, used by potential buyers to educate themselves before visiting the dealership; here we have a sign of the growing complementarity between these two points of contact. Hence the importance for dealers to reinvent themselves in the digital age.

With IMAWEB, make the link between digital and the dealership.
IMAWEB is aware that the digital and the physical point of sale are complementary and should no longer be set against each other. That’s why we have developed solutions to bridge the gap between the Internet and the dealership. The goal? Strengthen the performance of the digital dealership, the conversion rate of visits to the dealership and the transformation rate. To achieve this, we offer several tools specially designed for automotive dealership networks:
– Webmarketing services: thanks to a 100% digital support, boost your traffic acquisition, your content production and your social activity.
– DataCar Digital: we propose the creation of a NetDirector website, adapted to the challenges of dealerships, which allows an average increase of 30% in the conversion rate of Internet users into qualified leads.
– A free audit by DATAFIRST: Our experts analyse 7 key indicators of digital dealership performance, before suggesting areas for improvement and a tailor-made support plan.

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