In today’s automotive marketplace, there is a growing misalignment between the emerging needs and behaviors of customers and the traditional way of marketing to those customers.

Customers are more informed than ever before, with frictionless access to a universe of resources online.

Historically, the dealership or showroom was the most influential arena of decision-making – yet some customers are choosing to make a purchase decision without even entering a showroom. In fact, about 42% of customers are likely to make the purchase online, and those that do visit a showroom, arrive in an increasingly informed, empowered and educated state, having already ‘experienced’ the brand online and through friends’ recommendations.

As Google’s ZMOT automotive study shows, this has led to the purchase cycle of a car being reduced from about 6-12 months to the majority of buyers only taking about 1-2 months to make a purchase decision. Interestingly, as more people are using online recommendations and resources to make purchases, they are also sharing their post-purchase thoughts online.

In light of this, here are three ways auto-brands can use content to capitalise on this:

CONTENT MARKETING FOR ACQUISITION

Content marketing has emerged as a practice to reach people who are continually looking for information, entertainment or help.

About 94% of people start their auto purchase journey at Google search, as a result, auto-brands must be active with creating engaging content early in the decision process if they expect to influence the customer journey and build valuable customer insight.

Auto brands can use content marketing to pull people in who aren’t necessarily interested in a specific product or car model but instead meeting a need-state behind the product purchase. Instead of advertising through publications, by producing interesting content regularly, auto brands can build a direct-to-customer relationship. Put another way, instead of relying on generating interest through Auto Express – content marketing allows auto brands to become Auto Express; building up their own audience (readership) that they can ultimately sell to.

Customers purchase when they want – not when you bombard them with ads about a new launch. As such, auto brands need to shift from “Launch” advertising to “Relationship” marketing to ensure the sales process is initiated when a customer is ready, rather than when your car is ready. Regularly creating new content maintains engagement, which, in turn, creates relationship and, ultimately, a customer!

CONTENT MARKETING FOR RETENTION

Another benefit of producing content is that it retains customers post-conversion.

It’s usually three years until new car owners consider buying again, so auto brands are faced with the conundrum of how to send relevant communications to customers that keep them interested in the brand, without being overbearing.

Lifestyle content that empowers users (for example: “Ten automotive fairs near you”; “The most scenic routes in Britain’) are great ways to:

  • Build a relationship with customers – by giving them a reason for to return frequently to a brand environment (whether website, social media community or email)
  • Have a relevant post-purchase conversation – by delivering stimulating lifestyle content, brand can shift their customer communications from merely service enquiries or fielding complaints, to a relevant
  • Instils trust – by giving customers content that they really want and not just salesy content which is opportunistic and irrelevant
  • Provides utility – by providing useful content that enables a customer’s lifestyle and interests, brands can provide a service that adds real value to an on-going relation for each customer.

Furthermore, by using content intelligence, resale opportunities can be identified through constant digital communications with each customer, as you begin to understand what their specific interests are based on the topics they are reading about.

CONTENT MARKETING FOR ADVOCACY

Customers are connected and share information freely. Open and honest communications that encourage and reward advocacy are the only way to stop the slide into irrelevance.

About 41% share about their car purchase online on social media channels. If auto brands can understand what content is interesting to individuals and begin to send them the right content in communications, they can also expect to enjoy more sharing of brand content on social channels.

Customers that share branded content are a brilliant way to create advocacy on behalf of auto brands; as each piece of content gently evangelises the merits of being a BMW or Renault owner.

By creating and amplifying quality content around the lifestyles, needs, and interests
of customers, automotive manufacturers can significantly reduce friction involved in advocating their brand, as many more people will share a great video or article by the brand, than will author a status or blog post about it.

Jonny RoseJonny Rose is Head of Content for idio – a content intelligence platform.

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