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  • Melissa Cadieux

Automotive Marketing in 2018: Four Trends You Should Know About

Everyone in the automotive marketing industry knows that people don’t just drive from dealership to dealership searching for a vehicle anymore. Online research is almost always the first step in the search for a car.

Since these behaviors are already common knowledge, the key for auto marketers is in the details. For example, what are the specific things people are searching for as they start their search for a vehicle?

Various studies have shown that most prospective buyers first search for high-quality content on cars that best suit their needs. Then, they will look for deals that may be available in their given budget. Most of them will also read customer reviews before heading to the dealership.

It is valuable to know all the specific steps that prospective buyers follow on their online journey. These digital interactions now rule over the entire buying process, so you don’t want to fall short on these opportunities.

These four trends in automotive marketing in 2018 can help you take full advantage of as many of these digital interactions as possible:

1.The Video Disruption

Just a short time ago, many marketers and tech leaders were telling everyone that video content was just an up-and-coming trend that wouldn’t hang around forever. Video has proven that it’s not just a short-term trend. It’s here to stay.

Video is not only one the most highly-effective online tactics, but it is also the type of content that most customers prefer. Animoto’s recent study showed that four times as many customers want to learn about a product through video than those who prefer to read about it.

Google’s data shows that this trend applies to car shoppers as well. In today’s world, over half of all prospective auto buyers watch at least 30 minutes of video content during vehicle research.

The types of videos car shoppers like to watch:

  • Videos explaining specifications and features

  • Test drive videos

  • Walk-through videos of vehicle interiors and exteriors

Even if you’re still not sure about investing in video as a significant part of your marketing strategy, it’s impressive power easily makes it worth consideration.

2.Staying Local

Since we’ve already established that the Internet rules vehicle research these days, it makes sense that the first stop for most car shoppers involves a search engine. It also makes sense that the search engine represents their last stop online as they choose a dealership or OEM. This last step is extremely important, and it is always LOCAL.

As an auto dealer, you know that the vast majority of your profits come directly from local customers. This is what makes the local search such a powerful tool.

Local searches are also extremely common. A recent study by Chitika showed that about 40 percent of all searches on Google involve a local intent. This means that almost half of the 3.5 billion searches processed on Google every day are local.

To make things even more enticing, research also suggests that local searches are much more likely to lead to actual purchases than non-local searches.

3.The Mobile Take-Over

When it comes to digital interactions, mobile devices are more dominant than ever. When Google studied a single consumer’s journey from the initial stages all the way through the purchase, they found that over 70 percent of the consumer's interactions occurred through their mobile device.

Other studies have also shown that most auto shoppers plan on using their smartphone as the only device they use for researching a vehicle.

Unfortunately, offering a mobile-responsive website is no longer enough to effectively target all of these mobile customers. You will need to consider a variety of different tools including social media and mobile apps to reach these prospective buyers.

Mobile users tend to bounce back and forth between mobile-responsive sites and applications during the different steps in the research process. While mobile-responsive sites may offer the best platform for vehicle comparisons, applications often serve as a better place to find warranty information and nearby dealerships.

While desktop computers still represent the preferred method for some activities like vehicle customization, some brands have now added vehicle customization configurators and other unique tools throughout their smartphone apps.

4.Why the Early Bird Gets the Worm

For those in the field of automotive marketing, the complexity and length of the sales cycle is a constant challenge. It’s been this way for a long time and, now that consumers can now spend even more time accessing improved content through all the different platforms and channels, many marketers worry that this obstacle is only growing worse.

According to another study by Google, car shippers consider five different brands on average. Key factors like size and vehicle type aren’t necessarily clear until late in the prospective buyer’s journey. When these buyers reach the last month of the cycle, they’ve made decisions on these key features and narrowed down their selections to one or two vehicles.

Unfortunately, many shoppers also claim that they don’t get exposed to online vehicle ads until this last month. This information was used in a recent Facebook article that showed how automotive marketers are missing opportunities in this area. The digital ads are simply showing up too late to be effective.

In order to actually influence a purchase decision, automotive marketers should put a lot more emphasis on timing. Earlier exposure in the sales cycle is the key to high impact ads in 2018.


As the influence of the digital landscape grows stronger and stronger, automotive marketers must focus on effective communication with car shoppers during every single interaction.

Mobile marketing is nothing new, but it is quickly taking over as the king of internet research. It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of all your prospects’ digital interactions will occur through mobile platforms this year.

The local search may be the most powerful tool in an automotive marketer’s repertoire, and it’s worth investing heavily into SEO to take full advantage.

Finally, auto marketers should embrace video content and early exposure strategies to have the largest impact on purchase decisions in 2018!


Melissa Cadieux is the Social Media Manager at Turbo Marketing Solutions and you can email her here or reach her at Turbo Marketing

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