Industry Focus: Automotive Digital Marketing | Part 1

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This is the first ‘Industry Focus’ blog, in which I’ll be discussing digital marketing in an industry specific context, in this case automotive digital marketing. By this, I refer to the car manufacturers who choose to sell their wares in the UK; from Ford to Ferrari, Honda to Hyundai.

After a tough couple of years (2008 saw an 11.3% reduction in new car registrations over the previous year), UK car sales are now in the height of a strong recovery, fuelled by a national economy that is for the first time beginning to reach pre-recession levels.

Automotive digital marketing
The usual suspects:  The top 10 car models sold in the UK in 2013 are almost all household names.
(Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – Motor Industry Facts 2014: http://www.smmt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/SMMT-Motor-Industry-Facts-2014.pdf)

So what of digital marketing in the industry? To provide a structure to the discussion, I will segment this post in two specific sections; Online Presence and Social Media.

Online Presence

Car manufacturers, like so many others, rely on the web for a huge number of sales leads. The complexity here is that, this isn’t an e-commerce business model in the traditional sense; you cannot actually buy a new car via a manufacturer website (some innovators aside). In my opinion therefore, such websites must do two fundamental things to be effective;

    1. Showcase models in the most attractive and assessable way possible.
    1. Promote and streamline the process of capturing sales leads and providing this information to the relevant dealership.



Take a few minutes to peruse the website of one of the world’s leading luxury car makers; Japanese firm Lexus. When it comes to making their cars look beautiful on the web, they are simply unmatched. Let’s take the landing page for their 'IS 300h’ for example. Here we find a veritable hub of information, headed by beautiful interactive 360° imagery. Scrolling down, you come across data provided by the independent user review website ‘Reevoo’, intuitively integrated directly into the page. Scroll further and there is a plethora of interesting content to consume; videos, images, even an interactive car configurator – all in one place with no click-throughs required. To put it simply, what we have here is a fantastic showcase for someone in the market to purchase a new car; an impressive suite of content that is more than likely to tick all of the boxes.

Now let’s compare this directly to one of Lexus’s competitors, in this case Mercedes Benz, and the landing page for its 'C-Class Saloon’. Where is all of the powerful product imagery and video? Why isn’t there any additional relevant content? We find a few sections focusing on the model’s features, but it takes a number clicks to land on any substantial content, and the content itself isn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing and is quite copy-heavy.

Imagine you had no former knowledge or bias between the two brands. If purely judging on web presence, which would you be more drawn toward? – there’s only one answer really.

Lexus’s lead generating activities too, namely brochure and test drive request mechanisms, are obvious and intuitive. Regardless of where you travel on the site, ‘floating’ icons appear on the right-hand side of the page, pointing toward such activities. The process of requesting a test drive is also very easy - there are only a few fields to complete and again the whole process can be finished without leaving the model landing page.

It’s also worth making a note on web responsiveness at this point. I’m happy to report that both Lexus and Mercedes have been reactive to the need for a mobile optimised web presence, as you would expect from companies of their size. There are however, a few laggards. Chrysler is one of the guilty parties, with a website that at the time of writing isn’t at all responsive to mobile devices. In a world where mobile now accounts for more than a quarter of online traffic, this is fairly inexcusable.

Automotive digital marketing
Fully Responsive:  It’s good to see that most car manufacturers are alive to the need for a fully responsive web presence.

Check out part 2 of my ‘Industry Focus’ incoming next week, where I’ll be taking a closer look at brand social media presence within automotive digital marketing.

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