Looking at the latest search data and recent Google Consumer Survey results, here are the three most pronounced shifts in the automotive industry. Here's what these three auto trends mean for brands.
People who use car-sharing also buy cars
"There is a lot of discussion around the impact of car-sharing services on the auto industry, and for good reason," Reutershan and McBroom write for Think with Google. "Industry watchers and futurists alike have predicted that, eventually, cars may no longer be privately owned. As measured by Google query trends, searches for car-sharing services are up 59% year over year. And yet today, being in-market for a new vehicle may not necessarily preclude consumers from using car-sharing. In fact, it may make them even more likely."
AudienceSCAN research reports 7.7% of U.S. adults used Uber in the past 6 months.
"In August, Google asked consumers about their car-sharing behavior. Twenty-two percent of respondents who reported having used a car-sharing service within the past month planned to buy or lease a vehicle in the next year, while 80% of those respondents said they already owned or leased. Meanwhile, of consumers who had not used a car-sharing service in the past month, just 14% planned to buy or lease, and 71% currently owned or leased."
The latest AudienceSCAN survey found 17.8% of Uber Users own and drive Toyotas. And they are 41% more likely than average consumers to own and drive Hondas.
"This suggests that using car-sharing does not preclude consumers' interest in buying or leasing. Rather, the two might be complementary. At the same time, millennials name price as the most important factor when buying a car, ahead of fuel efficiency, design, safety features, and vehicle technology."
If auto dealers want to convert Uber Users into buyers, they could try advertising to them on social networks. The latest AudienceSCAN data reveals 45.3% of Uber Users took action based on ads in their social media feeds in the past 30 days.
"This speaks to pronounced shifts in how consumers regard the car itself. Like other technologies, cars enable experiences—they're becoming more like services than status symbols. Long term, this shift has the potential to disrupt the driver-as-owner model, but for the time being, consumers prize utility and affordability—whether they manifest in their driveway or at the tap of an app."
Mobile smartphone app ads or text message ads also could be effective in reaching Uber Users, according to AudienceSCAN research. 44.4% of Uber Users took action based on these types of ads in the past month.
"Takeaway: Consumers prize convenience. As car-sharing grows in popularity and practicality, consumers will increasingly regard cars as a service, asking which solution—a privately owned car or a shared car—is most useful in the moment. Marketers have to be attuned to consumers' ever-more-fluid priorities, and adjust their messaging and targeting accordingly."
Marketers should consider what Uber Users are doing while being driven to their destinations. They are checking out the car they're in, possibly making mental notes of features they like and want in their next vehicle purchase. Also, they're listening to the driver's radio. So speak to them there. AudienceSCAN's latest survey finds Uber Users are 83% more likely than average consumers to take action after hearing radio spots in the past month.
Consumer behavior is changing—and video is leading the drive
"Leveraging YouTube and Search, consumers are positively bingeing on digital content before making their purchases—and multiplying opportunities for marketers to be there in shoppers' which-car-is-best moments. Last year, consumers spent on average three hours more time researching than they did in 2013. They also performed 75% of that research on digital."
"The average in-market shopper makes just two visits to a dealer before making a purchase. Research shows that consumers are gravitating particularly toward five video styles: test drives, walk-around, feature highlights, reviews, and safety tests. Mobile video particularly drives in-market consumers to take action; after watching content about cars, trucks, or racing on a smartphone, one in four will visit a dealer."
"Takeaway: As a resource to whittle down a car shopper's consideration set, video is invaluable. Consider creating content around the five popular video styles (test drives, walk-around, feature highlights, reviews, safety tests), which allows shoppers to research by simply hitting play, and make sure it's optimized for mobile. Mercedes-Benz's example illustrates how marketers can be there in shoppers' which-car-is-best moments in creative, digital-first ways."
Bold brands think digital first
"It's not enough to be digital-first; a brand must be digital-savvy."
"Takeaway: The digital landscape has leveled the playing field. Consequently, marketers don't need a big budget to see big impact; a well-thought-out digital strategy that meets shoppers at each moment of intent allows it to punch above its weight. And because consumers are increasingly treating dealerships as mere points-of-sale, it's that much more critical to target them during their research. Consumers who think they've made up their minds might still be swayed by an alternative: you."