Social media is still growing rapidly. I’m pointing out the obvious here but social networks are a dynamic medium for entertainment and interaction, including content discovery and product recommendation.
As such, the auto industry seems almost uniquely suited to social.
While most consumers buy cars infrequently, their interest in them (based on price tag, necessity and if you indulge me, the embodiment of the American dream) often transcends the purchase event.
As such, social analytics has cause to mature in the automotive industry, where it surely stands to play a part in the sales funnel other than simply branding.
I’ve been reading a nice little CMO Council report on social analytics in the auto industry. Here are some thoughts on integrating social into automotive sales.
The passion for cars
The car maketh the man. Not in my eyes (living in London I let my license expire) but in many people’s, this is true.
As the CMO report pithily puts it, people see their cars as a reflection of themselves.
This passion in many consumers translates to social media. Just look at these stats:
- 38% of consumers say they will consult social media in making their next car purchase.*
- 23% of car buyers say they use social media to communicate their purchase experience.*
- 84% of automotive shoppers are on Facebook, and 24% of them have used Facebook as a resource for making their vehicle purchase.*
- 40% of new car purchases over the next 10 years will be made by millennials, according to 2011 Deloitte research.
- 94% of millennial car buyers gather information online according to eBay Motors research.
- Clicks on auto ads on Facebook climbed from 16% to 39% between October 20012 and April 2013.*
(* 2013 study by Dealer.com and GfK Automotive Research)
Car enthusiasts represent a considerable consumer segment. Interest in motorsports also translates almost directly to interest in automotive brands. Through NASCAR, brands such as Mazda and Cadillac and B2B brands like Snap-on have attracted many to their social channels.
Mike Martinez, CMO of DME Automotive:
We see a tremendous appetite by consumers for sharing compelling content [about cars] through their networks.
Rob Milne, North American Director of Marketing Operations for Mazda, concurs.
It’s the cars themselves that drive the most social buzz and excitement. When we get into some of the more human aspects, there’s a little less interest. When we’re showcasing the product, the technology, photos of our engines—that’s when people get excited.
Many car brands are investing most of their social budgets in new model launches, in part because of this consumer focus on the cars themselves, and the perception this is where ROI is to be found.
Facebook is the place
Facebook is still the premier social platform for reaching automotive consumers, particularly if the goal is ongoing engagement, according to every marketer interviewed in this CMO Council report.
Twitter has a place, though it’s more for events. George Hanes, Digital and Social Manager for Kia Motors, calls Twitter ‘the king of now’ and prizes its ability to drive companion viewing and engage people during live events.
(BMW on Facebook)
Trusted conversation & reputation management
C2C conversations and endorsements on social, as well as on popular review sites, have a big impact on brand reputation, preference and purchasing.
Up to a third of all car buyers consult online reviews sites before choosing a dealer, according to J.D. Power & Associates.
Both dealers and manufacturers have active reputation management programs that address problems and issues while coaxing and amplifying commentary from happy customers.
Jim Vurpillant, Director of Global Marketing for Cadillac, says reputation management is currently where social is having the biggest impact on purchasing.
Just like the old world, word of mouth has a huge impact on auto sales, and social is amplifying that.
And Kathryn Kennedy from AutoNation agrees.
We’ve seen that consumer-generated content and reviews motivate people to drive beyond their normal radius in order to purchase a car from a dealership they’ve seen reviewed positively,
Brands are yet to use social in the sales funnel
The CMO Council report states that marketers from leading vehicle manufacturers, dealer networks and aftermarket brands make it clear that, while many are investing significantly and all are at least experimenting with social, no one believes it is yet mature.
The next step is integrating social more directly into the sales funnel, segmenting customers, as well as using it to deliver qualified leads.
How is social analytics being used in the auto industry?
Automotive marketers are analysing conversations to improve their understanding of evolving brands.
George Haynes of Kia uses social analytics to track and understand consumer attitudes and behaviours. This analysis shows that what attracts and motivates consumers can differ significantly from model to model.
Similarly, Express Oil Change is analysing conversations to optimise search terms and content, and AutoNation is using conversational analytics to understand how consumers influence one another and ultimately purchase behavior.
Many brands are starting to think about qualified leads. Nissan is experimenting with more personalized interactions, with ‘hand raisers’ – those who identify themselves as interested in knowing more about a car or truck.
And I’m sure many brands are retargeting in social ads, which could be seen as qualified, depending on the criteria. For a while now, test drives and brochures have been available to order through social, too.
But what are the possibilities of social analytics when truly concentrated on the sales funnel?
Tools such as hoojook (co-producers of the CMO Council report) uses natural language processing and machine learning to identify potential leads across social channels and segment them based on where they are in the purchase cycle.
This technology can help determine what type of vehicles consumers are considering and enable the delivery of the right content to move them further into the sales funnel.
Social analytics possibilities
There are a few possibilities detailed in the CMO Council report, but chief among them is simply ‘understanding each customer at an individual level’. This can be specified as:
- Increasing the precision of customer segmentation by analyzing the customer’s influence and preferences across social.
- Gauging the customer’s propensity to buy.
- Engaging in one-to-one communication.
- Optimising customer interactions by knowing where a customer is and delivering relevant, real-time offers based on that location.
- Offering relevant promotions.
- Automating the tracking and managing of a brand’s online reputation by aggregating all reviews on the web, amplifying the positive reviews and managing the negative ones.
- Enticing a competitor’s customers.
- Winning back your dissatisfied customers.