Clicking for cars: how digital and mobile are changing the auto industry

The local car industry had its best year ever last year, with a 12 percent increase in new car sales. And the growth looks set to continue, with 750,000 New Zealanders planning to buy a car over the next year. But the way they’re buying them has changed significantly in recent years and, according to Nielsen data, 78 percent are reaching for their keyboards to help them make a purchase decision.

Trade Me is the most used website by prospective buyers with the site attracting 79 percent of all online vehicle researchers. Its use is more than double that of their nearest competitors Autotrader (33 percent), Google (33 percent) and Turners (32 percent). 

Toyota is the highest ranked of the car manufacturer websites with 23 percent of buyers having used their site. The AA (22 percent), stuff.co.nz/motoring (12 percent), carjam.co.nz (12 percent) Nissan (12 percent) and Mazda (11 percent) round out the top ten websites used by online car researchers. 

Although digital media is the primary resource used, many others are still used in the process of buying and selling a car. An average buyer uses 4.6 resources in their decision making. Of those in the market to buy a car, 63 percent visit used car dealers, 54 percent talk to family and friends and others visit new car yards (44 percent) and auction houses (35 percent). 26 percent use classified magazines and local newspapers and around a fifth use automotive magazines (21 percent), auto manufacturers magazines or brochures (20 percent) and email or call dealers (18 percent).  

“Even with the strong visitation to automotive sites, there is still potential for further growth by improving the amount of content provided,” says Tony Boyte, research director, Nielsen NZ. “Users of online auto sites are after easier ways to compare vehicles – including specific features, performance and pricing information. They would also like to see condition reports including independent checks from AA and service history. Although it is important to have an online presence for selling cars, buyers make use of a variety of resources during the path to purchase. For advertisers, this means integrating their campaign messages and making the most of the variety of channels and media available to them to ensure a smooth path to purchase for their customers.” 

Nielsen’s research didn’t split desktop and mobile search, but Google announced yesterday that it now gets more search requests from smartphones and tablets than from laptops and desktops in ten countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Google refined P&G’s classic marketing idea of the first moment of truth for the digital age and called it the zero moment of truth. But as mobile becomes increasingly dominant, the purchase behaviour has changed again and consumers are demanding more. 

“The purchase funnel is officially dead,” said Jerry Dischler, vice president of product management at Google. “What we’re seeing are these short bursts of activity that we’re calling micro-moments. We see the new challenge for marketers is to be there at those moments anytime, anywhere.”

Here are some of the ad options Google is now offering across the automotive, hotel and finance sectors: 

  • Automotive: Car buyers spend up to 15 hours online researching, comparing and learning. When people browse the web for automobiles, they want to see pictures and visuals of their dream car. In fact, about half of Google searches for cars contain images. That’s why we introduced Automobile Ads – a new search ad format that takes you directly from Google.com to a beautiful carousel of car images that shows you how a car looks inside and out — like how the sleek metallic finish looks with the black leather and wood trim. Tapping on an image brings up more information about the car, like horsepower and estimated MPG while tapping on the “Dealers” link takes you to a page with nearby dealer listings.
  • Hotel AdsThere are millions of searches for hotels everyday — that’s millions of potential hotel bookings. When people search for hotels, they’re looking for information like rates, availability, locations, user reviews, editorial descriptions, Google Street View, and high resolution photos. Today, we announced that Hotel Ads will start to show globally for hotel partners around the world, one click away from Google.com. Hotel Ads show current prices from a variety of sources and when a traveler is ready, they can select “Book” to complete their reservation on the partners’ sites.
  • Mortgages: Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions in life, so understanding your options and having the right tools is critical. The newest addition to Google Compare in the US is coming soon: mortgages. Whether someone is a first-time home-buyer or looking to refinance, consumers will soon be able to find the latest mortgage rates from multiple mortgage providers, and review a customized set of criteria like interest rate, terms of the loan and fees. They’ll be able to apply directly with an approved lender or speak to a qualified adviser for more information, directly from the Google search ad.

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