4 Automotive Marketing Trends You Need to Know

7th December 2018

Do you remember the last time you drove from dealership to dealership in the search for the perfect car?

You probably don’t, as like most people you did your research online before you stepped foot into a dealership.

According to an Autotrader study, 88% of prospective buyers use the Internet for their research, typically searching content on which car would suit their needs most, the best deals available for their budget, reading customer reviews all to narrow down where they go to buy their next car and when. People go online to research at every stage of the customer journey. In other words, countless digital micro-moments rule the buying process.

Car shoppers' journey and moments - automotive marketing trends
An image showing car shoppers’ journey and moments – automotive marketing trends Source: Think with Google

To avoid missing further opportunities we’ve compiled together four automotive marketing trends that will help dealerships to be present in each micro-moment and bridge this gap.

1. Mobile dominates digital interactions

Mobile devices have not only become a key component of auto shoppers’ journeys but they also dominate digital interactions. Google studied in detail one consumer’s complete journey, from awareness to purchase, and found that 71% of digital interactions occurred on mobile. Additionally, 58% of auto shoppers agree that in the future their smartphone is likely to be the only device they use for vehicle research.

Merely having a mobile responsive website is not enough to target mobile-first buyers. Mobile apps, local search, video content and social media all present opportunities to reach mobile-first buyers on their preferred device.

Mobile-first users use both m-sites and apps in their research as each proves to be more useful in different aspects of the research process. For example, mobile websites are the preferred platform for comparing vehicles, whereas users use apps to get warranty information or research the nearest dealer. Desktop still dominates activities such as customising vehicles, since only 68% of mobile auto sites have customisation configurators, compared with 93% of desktop sites, L2 Digital Index reports.

The automobile marketing trends in terms of the mobile-first shoppers
An image showing the automobile marketing trends in terms of the mobile-first shoppers Source: Facebook IQ

However, savvy brands like Chevrolet developed a brand app allowing you to customise their vehicles, leveraging smartphone features like 360-degree views. Last year, Chevrolet launched the immersive app for the 2016 Camaro that garnered 62,000 downloads in just a couple of months.

Want to talk about your project? Get in touch.

2. Local searches rule

As the Internet remains the number one source for vehicle research, it is only natural that car shoppers’ online experiences begin with a search engine. And when it comes to auto shopping, buyers’ online experiences also end with search, local search to be exact, as they select the right OEM or dealership.

Local search is an extremely powerful tool for brick-and-mortar businesses who garner most of their profit from local customers. According to Chitika, 43% of the overall query volume coming from Google (both mobile and PC) carries a local intent.

This means that almost half of all search traffic is local. To put this into perspective, Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day…

And the best part is that local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches, 78% of local-mobile searches result in an offline purchase, usually within a few hours. This presents a huge opportunity for astute businesses who dominate local search in their niche.

Therefore, for OEMs and dealerships, being discoverable is important at each stage of the buying cycle, but even more so at the final stage of the sales funnel.

An image showing what people look for when searching for local businesses

Here are some basics to ensure your business is discoverable on searches with local intent:

  • Claim your Google My Business Page
  • Ensure your NAP details (Name, address, telephone) are the same across different listings and match the ones on your website.
  • Build local citations for your business
  • Earn reviews

For more information on local search and best practices, check out this checklist by Moz.

3. The biggest content disruptor: Video

Video has passed the “up-and-coming” trend stage and it’s here to stay. Not only it’s one of the most effective tactics, reportedly being the tactic bringing the highest ROI, but it’s also in high demand by consumers. Four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it and 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers.

Guess what? Car buyers feel the same way.

The latest data from Google shows that vehicle research and purchase decisions are increasingly influenced by video. More than half of auto shoppers watch 30 minutes or more of videos as part of their vehicle research.

Videos can help brands advance in the brand discovery and consideration stages, possibly accelerating the lengthy and unpredictable automotive sales cycles.

Car shoppers agree that videos play an important role in introducing them to new brands and vehicles, with 47% saying that they first heard about a specific car by watching online videos. In terms of decision-making, 65% reported that they narrowed down their options after watching a video.

The top types of videos car buyers watch include test drives, specs and features videos, and vehicle interior and exterior walkthroughs.

It really goes without saying that you should consider adding video to your marketing mix.

Automotive marketing trends: the types of video content auto shoppers consume
Source: Think with Google

Want to talk about your project? Get in touch.

4. Reach people on digital earlier in the purchase process

The automotive industry is renowned for having complex and lengthy sales cycles.

According to Facebook, 60% of car buyers are in the market for at least six months, actively researching and seeking advice. Another study showed that people are gathering more information than ever utilising various channels and platforms, with car buyers having 24 research touchpoints on average.

An image showing auto shoppers' sales cycle: number and types of touchpoints
Source: Think with Google

Shoppers considered on average 5 brands, with essential factors such as car type, size and other features becoming clearer later in the buyers’ journey as the purchase approaches. By the last month of the sales cycle, car buyers have decided on these features and already narrowed down their options to 1-2 cars.

However, this last month is also the time when shoppers reported being exposed to most car adverts on the Internet. This means that shoppers are exposed to brands’ digital ads too late in the sales cycle and opportunities are missed. Therefore, brands are failing to meet potential car buyers at key times and auto shopping moments.

To truly make an impact and influence purchase decisions, car dealerships need to reach potential customers earlier in the purchase cycle, in the discovery and consideration stages.


As digital heavily influences car buyers purchasing decisions, car dealerships and manufacturers need to communicate more effectively with potential customers across each and every micro-moment.

Mobile marketing needs to become a key focus for automotive brands, as the majority of interactions happen here.

As local search is an extremely powerful tool it is worth investing in SEO or being aware of what keywords you rank for. Additionally, to make an impact and influence buyers’ purchase decisions, brands need to embrace video and attempt to reach people in the early stages of the customer journey.

Want to talk about your project? Get in touch.

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garage door springs

Thanks for sharing helpful article. I am new here but I read most of your blog article. Please continue to write for us. Thanks

Creative Lions
Creative Lions

Great tips! Thanks for sharing intelligent tips.

George Stafford
George Stafford

Videos can help brands advance in the brand discovery and consideration stages, possibly accelerating the lengthy and unpredictable automotive sales cycles. Mobile marketing needs to become a key focus for automotive brands, as the majority of interactions happen here.

Doug Williams
Doug Williams

Well worth a read. Got great insights and information from your blog. Thanks.

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