10 Automotive Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2024
In an ever-evolving automotive industry, keeping up with trends is a matter of 'survive and thrive'. In 2023, buyer behaviour and content emerged as critical influences for auto businesses.
Let’s dig into 10 key automotive marketing trends in 2024 and how you can leverage them for growth.
10 automotive marketing trends for 2024
- Automotive purchases continue to shift online
- Customer experience is insights-based and personalised
- Omnichannel content strategy drives the buyer journey
- Video is on an unstoppable growth path
- Social media brings in leads and sales
- Digital advertising strategies are more refined
- Search guides customers to purchase at the dealership
- Conversion APIs grow in popularity as cookies die
- A shift to an ‘agency model’ is on the horizon
- Electric vehicle adoption sees surprise shifts
1. Automotive purchases continue to shift online
Post-Covid, the automotive industry came across an emerging set of buyers—who previously used public transport and now want to own a car.
Plus, they were younger and more comfortable using online mediums for research. Millennials use more online sources during the research phase than the average car buyer.
And they’re not alone. As much as 88% of potential car buyers research cars online.
Digital channels increase purchase confidence. It’s easier for buyers to compare several options at once and get detailed information on each model.
But that’s not to say the brick-and-mortar dealership is dying out. Instead, 79% of car buyers still prefer to shop in person.
The car buying journey is non-linear, having multiple touchpoints.
Start building and refining your online presence with mass digital platforms—search, social media, YouTube, automotive affiliate publishers and branded assets like your website.
Meet buyers where they’re present.
For example, if your target audience is active on TikTok and LinkedIn. Develop custom online strategies and messaging for each platform to be relevant.
When buyers quickly find the information they’re looking for on your channels, they’re more likely to take the next step—book a test drive or appointment.
2. Customer experience is insights-based and personalised
71% of consumers expect businesses to deliver personalised engagement.
Solutions using AI and data analytics power highly customised and targeted experiences. They dig deep into each customer’s unique motivations and preferences.
You can incorporate the findings into marketing campaigns to drive personalisation.
Lead management systems like Driftrock sync with your CRM, tracking each lead’s journey from the moment it enters your system. Plus, they validate lead information, capturing quality leads with high purchase intent.
Insights-based personalisation drives online leads to offline conversion successfully.
Avoid using third-party data which is no longer considered reliable.
Instead, go with lead generation forms. They capture zero and first-party data from high-intent buyers in a few easy clicks without interrupting the user experience.
And if you’re worried about buyers not wanting to share their data, this is far from true. 74% of car shoppers are comfortable sharing personal data to get customised messages.
Next, harness this zero and first-party data to discover buyer preferences at the granular level. Use the findings to create more personable messages for potential buyers.
3. Omnichannel content strategy drives the buyer journey
Gone are the days when search engines and dealerships were the primary research sources. Today, car shoppers use multiple channels—social media, video, websites, and more.
Out of all websites, buyers most visit third-party sites (79%), followed by dealerships (59%), used vehicle retailers (34%) and finally, automaker websites (33%).
An omnichannel content strategy covers all these platforms, keeping communication focused and cohesive.
You can target key purchase drivers (such as life changes, needs and wants) across channels instead of generic messaging.
Also, consistent information on all your channels increases buyer confidence in their purchase.
Omnichannel also focuses on various devices.
This can be particularly helpful when mobile search is gaining momentum. In 2022, more than 60% of traffic to automotive eCommerce websites came from mobile.
Your omnichannel strategy must win customers from the beginning of their purchase journey.
Make it easy for them to access the information they need.
Experiment with new platforms or formats. For instance, your target audience may include younger customers (millennials and GenZ) who are present and active on TikTok. Jump onto the platform and experiment.
Next, think beyond owned content.
Automotive content creators and affiliate publishers are excellent ways to reach a larger audience. They have a solid grip over popular formats and are constantly trying out new ideas. You can use their findings to refine your strategy.
Lastly, optimise content for mobile. You could create mobile-friendly, bite-sized videos on social media or long-form ones on YouTube.
Don’t forget the website. Optimise it to load quickly and make navigation easy on the small screen.
4. Video is on an unstoppable growth path
Despite its popularity, 43% of companies don’t have a video-specific strategy.
As a result, top automotive OEMs and dealerships are now growing their presence on video-forward platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. They’re also gravitating towards better production and content quality.
Video is one of the best mediums for storytelling, an element that has captured buyer attention for a long time.
They also give a realistic experience of the vehicle. Buyers can see cars in action without visiting the dealership.
Source: Mercedes-Benz, YouTube
In addition to sharing technical information, use videos to show how the automotive improves the buyer’s life. For instance, position your car as a road trip companion with whom the owner can let their hair down and have fun.
Source: Mercedes-Benz, YouTube
Leverage all types of formats—stories, reels, carousels and long-form.
For the automotive industry particularly, you can experiment with multiple ideas:
- Launch events
- Vehicle features
- ‘Car of the Week’ highlights
- Educational content
- Test drives
- Q&A sessions
- Press events
Support your video content through video-specific ad campaigns to increase reach and conversion.
Also, leverage social proof (expert reviews and interview-style testimonials) to fortify buyer confidence in your offerings.
5. Social media brings in leads
During the research phase, 21% of car buyers credited social media with directly informing their vehicle purchases. Another 71% used it to support their shopping process for cars.
Regarding popularity, YouTube (41%) tops the list of most-used social platforms for potential buyers in the automotive world. Facebook (37%) and Instagram (21%) follow closely.
TikTok isn’t far behind. More than three-quarters of car buyers on TikTok used the platform for research. And 67% ended up finding a new auto brand or product.
In the post-purchase stage, nearly 25% of millennials and 1 in 5 GenZers directly contact brands on social media for service-related queries.
Leverage different social media formats.
Use stories with Q&As, quizzes and poll stickers to engage the audience. Similarly, short-form videos also keep viewers hooked.
Don’t miss the comments section. It’s a gold mine of insights and valuable feedback sourced directly from potential and existing customers.
Use lead generation forms available across social platforms. They also come with a pre-fill feature, making it easier to capture lead details.
Social media is the perfect place to build communities and use advocacy to boost your business. You may tap into existing communities of car and brand enthusiasts.
Or you could build your community.
Ford created a community of electric Mustang owners—the MachE club. It also promotes other clubs on its social media account. Owners and fans of the car hold purposeful discussions. Most also educate interested leads and new owners, advocating on your behalf.
Source: Ford MachE Club
Source: Ford Mustang, Instagram
Likewise, buyers trust testimonials and posts from existing customers. This makes the prospective ownership experience more authentic, increasing their confidence in you.
Use your social media accounts to direct buyers to your primary owned asset—the website—guiding audiences to relevant resources.
6. Digital advertising strategies are more refined
With more and more customers taking up online research before purchasing cars, dealers are making broad adjustments to meet them online.
A couple of these include increasing digital marketing spend (52%) and embracing new digital marketing tools (37%).
Despite the growth, lead quality continues to be challenging. 40% of marketers consider attracting quality leads as their biggest hurdle.
Increasing ad spend should be backed by a solid strategy to boost ROI and quality leads.
Quality leads have higher purchase intent and add valuable data to your CRM. You can use zero and first-party (accurate) data to satisfy buyer preferences.
Consider social media. 28% of internet users discover new brands through social media ads. Some social platforms also offer specific inventories for the automotive industry.
Facebook’s Automotive Inventory Ads specifically target in-market car buyers. Through remarketing, you can target those interested in your products.
Plus, Facebook lets you create a catalogue of your products instead of individual ads for each.
Another helpful social platform is LinkedIn. You can create custom segments for specific interests.
Next, use value-based bidding instead of automated bidding for search ads.
Source: Think with Google
It uses AI and first-party data to reach leads with higher intent (another reason why having quality lead data is essential).
7. Search guides customers to purchase at dealerships
In the UK, interest in searches beginning with ‘cheap’ declined over time. On the other hand, interest in searches starting with ‘best’ increased.
It shows that customers are moving away from a price-focused approach to search. Instead, they want the best experiences in specific categories.
As a result, searches are more distinct and personal to buyers’ use cases. They want to feel confident that their choices will fulfil their needs.
As an automotive business, it’s best to be present throughout the journey, particularly when they need to arrive at a decision.
Use PPC ads and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to appear on the top of SERPs. Visitors tend to read the top results first and may not move beyond the first page.
Remember to include emotional triggers in your ad copy or visuals. You may also leverage social proof—customer ratings, first-party data and testimonials—as specific recommendations for audience groups.
Google conducted an experiment with car insurance in which shopper confidence increased, courtesy of expert reviews.
Optimise your website for search. Build backlinks for your content, improving relevance and authority. Use targeted keywords to rank higher on SERPs for the correct search terms.
Finally, optimise your search for local audiences. Car dealerships can set up Google My Business profiles complete with location, contact details, working hours, high-resolution pictures, and customer ratings.
To reach a specific local audience, consider geo-targeting your search ads.
8. Conversion APIs grow in popularity as cookies die
Marketers previously relied on third-party cookie data to understand user behaviour. However, browsers continue phasing out these cookies, making it challenging to plan strategic campaigns.
Conversion API is gradually proving an effective solution, operating on data stored in your server instead of user browsers.
Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google offer Conversion API, which provides a deep dive into a user’s actions after clicking or viewing your ad.
It can track events such as leads, form submissions, find locations, vehicle purchases, affiliate payments, phone calls and more.
Make the most of Conversion API to leverage user behaviour data from more reliable sources (such as zero and first-party). You can connect online and offline data, sending web events directly from your systems to the platform.
Also, Conversion API is a better alternative to third-party cookies for full-funnel measurement. You can measure and optimise campaign performance, decreasing the cost per action for greater ROI.
9. A shift to an ‘agency model’ is on the horizon
Under the genuine agency model, OEMs take complete responsibility for vehicle information, pricing and contracting on online platforms.
Dealers act as agents, engaging with car buyers for test drives and processing the sale and post-purchase offline activities.
As omnichannel becomes mainstream, OEMs and dealers must work seamlessly for a frictionless customer experience.
If a seamless online process is provided, 91% of consumers prefer buying from an OEM or dealer website. Another 77% prefer fixed prices that are the same between OEMs and dealerships.
However, 36% of mobility consumers are not satisfied with current online purchase options.
The best way to set a consistent experience is by having unified insights, which an agency model promises.
If you’re an OEM, the agency model gives a holistic view of the customer journey rather than collecting data from separate channels. Unified data helps you provide a consistent, unified omnichannel experience.
If you’re a dealership, an agency model may seem unattractive at first look.
75% of dealers say OEMs haven’t provided enough information on the new model, roles, and transition period. Another 66% feel that agency compensation is unfair.
But at the same time, discounts are set to increase by up to 30% until 2025. This price competition will lead to an average revenue loss of $600,000 per year per dealer.
On the contrary, dealers that operate under the genuine agency model could see a 10-12% increase in enterprise value.
That’s because the agency model offers reduced financial risk. You don’t have to worry about competing with other dealers of the same brand regarding price.
Plus, you can focus on relationship-building. With less time spent on admin work, you have more time to foster customer loyalty.
10. Electric vehicle adoption sees surprise shifts
Electric car sales exceeded 10 million units in 2022 – a 55% growth over 2021. However, in 2023, consumer interest in electric vehicles has stabilised rather than increased.
Does that mean you should stop advertising electric vehicles?
Several countries are taking unprecedented steps to encourage EV adoption. The US plans to increase the number of EV manufacturing plants from 9 to 41 by 2029. The European Union has pledged to sell only zero-emission cars by 2035.
Also, 50% of buyers want to spend more time buying electric vehicles than petrol or diesel cars.
It’s no time to slow down on EV marketing.
Show how your electric vehicles differ from traditional car options. Give information that sets your brand apart by focusing on creating awareness among buyers:
- Show benefits that go beyond climate impact
- Bust common myths around hybrid and electric vehicles
- Share real customer experiences and stories
- Leverage user-generated content to make your brand more relatable
The EV market may not see a significant impact in the next few months. But it’ll undoubtedly change the automotive game in the long term.
Play into this long-term mindset of building interest in EVs to convert consumers over months and years.
A potential way to do this is by marketing to the younger generations.
Millennials and GenZ may not be immediate consumers, but they’ve expressed interest in EVs. Two-thirds of buyers in these generations say EVs will have the most consequential impact on the future automotive industry.
To read more about EV advertising, look at these real-world examples.
Fine-tune your automotive marketing strategy for 2024
With digital marketing and online research significantly impacting the automotive industry, digital and AI tools are the best way to keep up.
Leverage these tools to drive conversions and ROI, simultaneously improving customer interactions.
Our lead management platform, Driftrock, is changing the marketing game for over 20 automotive brands and 500+ dealerships, including BMW, Mini, Land Rover, Honda and more.
Get in touch to find out how you can level up in 2024.