Carmakers need to engage with consumers on their own turf

29th April 2021
Alex Lynn

As the way in which we interact with brands has become more fragmented, so too has our loyalty. Today, consumers are far more likely to consider cars from carmakers that we hadn’t previously, kicking off our car buying journey with as many as fourteen potential marques. This is largely due to the vast amount of blogs, vlogs, ads and articles instantly available at our fingertips.

By François de Bodinat, Chief Product Officer at ZeroLight

With only 40% of us going as far as actually visiting a manufacturer’s website during our purchase journey, carmakers can no longer rely on people going to their brand, instead the brand must actively engage them first. In other words, the mountain must move to meet the customer on their turf – most likely on ecosystems such as Facebook or Amazon.

Arresting the endless scroll

With 90% of UK shoppers using Amazon and 84% of car buyers using Facebook, carmakers have no choice but to embrace the power of these platforms. Not simply with ads or video that add to the noise, but with immersive and personalised experiences that are both engaging and memorable.

When Skoda launched its fourth generation Octavia, it wasn’t simply looking at promoting its new model on Facebook. Instead, the Czech carmaker wanted to interact with people at a time when Covid was restricting its traditional sales activity.

They asked ZeroLight to create a cloud-based 3D car configurator for the Octavia that worked with Facebook’s Instant Experience (IE) format. Optimised for mobile, IE reduces friction in the customer journey by loading instantly within the Facebook app, rather than sending people to external websites, which can often take fifteen times longer to load.

Available across 19 European markets, Skoda’s IE campaign took consumers through a guided four-step micro-configurator where they could customise their dream Octavia, choosing exterior colours, interior trims and alloy wheel designs.

Once complete, users were shown a personalised video of their car, before finally being directed to Skoda’s main website. This is where the scrolling stopped. Here, users were invited to go even deeper and specify every detail of their perfect car on Skoda’s website configurator. This converted the initial awareness generated on Facebook into real consideration and intent.

Becoming more than friends

The results surpassed all expectations. The campaigns achieved an engagement rate three times higher than the market average, as well as 43% longer engagement time, 68% experience-completion rate and 99% positive reactions on Facebook. So impressed were Skoda by the results, it plans to make the IE configurator a core asset for all future car launches.

Just recently, a ZeroLight cloud-based configurator played a pioneering role in the first ever vehicle premiere on Amazon Live, when Mitsubishi unveiled the all-new 2022 Outlander SUV. This engaging digital experience was a powerful way to reconnect the brand with customers during the pandemic, leading to increased brand recognition and valuable leads. It also demonstrated the opportunities brought about by live-streamed product launches.

What’s clear from these developments is that people start considering their future car based on just a few simple criteria. They want to explore its shape, experiment with a few different colours, wheels, and interiors. They will make emotional decisions even before visiting the brand’s website, and certainly before entering a dealership (if they even go there). If you can influence these decisions early, directly where the customers are, on Facebook or Amazon for instance, then you can maximise your chances of securing a member of the 55% who choose their new vehicle online.  

As more of us demand ever more personalised online experiences, the most successful brands will be the ones that look beyond their own media. By seamlessly combining the clout of social with a frictionless ecommerce strategy, companies can win new customers in an increasingly crowded digital landscape.

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