Why automotive brands need to think beyond sales when it comes to digital

Movement’s Creative Director, Tim Ash, shares his thoughts on the automotive industry’s big issues when it comes to digital marketing.

Car manufacturers are obsessed with product, and marketing that product. You can see why – each sale of such a high value item is very significant. But aside from a few specific instances (fixing issues and servicing), the ongoing customer relationship isn’t nurtured. Any relationship the customer has is with the dealership they bought from, rather than the brand- and those dealerships can vary hugely in what they provide. Often, it’s the case that sales treatment is great, but ownership treatment is not up to scratch.

This is particularly true when it comes to digital. With the exception of Tesla, which is light years ahead of most other major car manufacturers, there’s a lack of ongoing customer-focused digital marketing and communication in automotive. It’s a shame, not least because the potential for innovation is huge.

Just like a fit bit (or similar device) can keep track of our health and send us feedback, car owners should be able to use the data generated by their car to improve and maintain their vehicle. Not just by flashing a warning light; following this up with a proactive phone call, guiding the customer as to what steps to take next and how to go about doing it- taking away the uncertainty and the need to open up Google for tips. Essentially, car manufacturers should provide a full customer service cycle on digital channels. And the trade-off for the manufacturer providing this, is consent to access this hoard of customer data.

This, of course, is an ideal. And it’s not easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it already. You need to build the infrastructure, to hire more data analysts. It’s expensive and will take a long time to implement.But as modern brands like Tesla bring new vehicles like the like the $35k Tesla model 3 into the market, they bring with them new technologies that no legacy brand’s systems can compete with, as well as newer systems that can cope with data transformation.

Some key benefits and uses of a connected car system:

  • Assessing current value of the vehicle live, at any time, based on all the data available.
  • Identifying customers who have experienced ongoing issues with their vehicle and proactively attempting to keep them loyal to your brand.
  • Customers able to better look after their car due to live updates on what is required to keep it in good health. Knock on benefit for those providing services.

It’s also true that buyers of new cars are usually in their fifties and less likely to be sold on technology alone. But today’s tech savvy millennials will be tomorrow’s buyers, and their expectations will be very different. A tech revolution happened in their lifetime, they expect more. In general, they’re frugal, they don’t have thousands tied up in property, and will need to be persuaded that buying a new car is a good idea. It’s short-sighted to think that the occasional dealership email is the correct way to deal with modern day customer service and digital marketing.

If you would like to discuss your brand’s digital strategy with us, get in touch here or call us on 020 3725 2048.