AM Online

Guest opinion: can car manufacturers learn from Netflix?

Author: Jo Coombs (pictured), managing director, OgilvyOne

"Social should be a powerful motor of growth in automotive. Consumers use an average of 24 touch points while buying, including direct use of social channels, search, video sites, review sites and forums. But our research shows that brands are often putting their effort in the wrong places, and missing significant opportunities. 

The challenge that marketers face is that the appropriate use of social differs dramatically by category.

Highly engaged car purchasers have dramatically different behaviours from somebody buying a chocolate bar. So one would expect a much more diverse set of social behaviours than actually exists.

Automotive marketing in social often looks surprisingly similar to fast moving consumer goods (closer to selling shampoo than you might think) marketing.

To understand this challenge better OgilvyOne established the 'social value benchmark' - a process to analyse companies’ social activities against their direct competitors based on public information.

Assessed on 4,087 datapoints for 27 companies across five categories, this research had some surprising findings. For the automotive category we assessed Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mercedes, gathering a total of 750 datapoints.

The findings for automotive are:

1. Social is most actively used in the early stages of customer journeys with a score of 70% at the consideration stage falling to 18% at the point of purchase. A balanced social strategy would imply high scores throughout the journey, so this implies a potentially significant mismatch of resources.

2. Many automotive brands create impressive experiences for potential buyers to configure and explore the car features they are considering, as well as useful materials after buying, such as self-service videos on, for instance, how to attach your phone by Bluetooth to your car’s stereo.

But these materials are often left on their websites, and not used on social channels to answer customer questions or engage potentially interested audiences on third party websites. Brands lose valuable opportunities to drive customer satisfaction, visibility in search results and advocacy by doing this.

3. There is almost no attempt by brands to engage in external discussions and communities, despite their role of informing customers looking for information. For instance 69% of consumers look at third party websites, only slightly fewer than the 81% who look at manufacturer websites. But brands rarely make this effort to reach out and engage on these sites.

4. Lead generation, even at the most basic level of encouraging people to book test drives, is largely unused, despite its high value. Brands have often struggled to turn interest in social into a deeper relationship, because consumers are reluctant to fill in forms on the mobile devices where most social time is spent. Innovations such as Twitter’s lead generation cards now make it easy for consumers to share their email address in two clicks, and, for instance, commit to a test drive.

5. Manufacturers often fail to respond to many questions in social channels, even though many of these are existing or potential customers. If this is compared to what happens if you ask a question in a dealership then it becomes obvious that this is a strange behaviour.

Customer services in social is increasingly important. Higher income customers are more likely to prefer social for customer services, and customer services in social is much more visible to people’s peer group than traditional support. OgilvyOne research suggests that even when social customer services is only 5% of the total, it can account for 40% of the reach to a customer’s peer group.

6. While manufacturers provide significant amounts of information on how to use a new car, they largely neglect the role of social in deepening relationships with their customers over time. This role is largely left to CRM programmes, which don’t have access to social context - so fail to tailor experiences using social data.

Companies such as Netflix now routinely offer personalised recommendations on what products customers might enjoy, based on a combination of their peer group’s social behaviours and CRM data.

Transported to automotive it should be possible for manufacturers to suggest new uses for their customer’s cars. For instance a consumer who buys a new mobile phone, could get targeted information on how to connect it to their car’s speaker system, or somebody taking their family on holiday could get recommendations on using the car for long journeys.

7. 59% of car buyers ask their family and friends for advice on buying a new car. But very few automotive brands are actively prompting their customers to advocacy. Our previous research on 'global passion brands' showed that there is often a huge disconnect between latent customer satisfaction and active advocacy. So, at a minimum, companies should be asking their most active customers to review their products, and tell their friends about their car. There are, of course, opportunities to boost advocacy throughout the customer journey, but, on the whole, brands are neglecting these.

So why aren’t companies asking their most active customers to review their products, and tell their friends about their car?

Brands are neglecting the opportunities, throughout the customer journey to boost advocacy.

It’s unsurprising that customers are using social at every stage of their journey to buy a car, and, as owners, to get the most out of it.

What we are surprised at is how many commercial opportunities are being missed by car marketeers.  52% of the vital social activities that should be powering automative brands are simply being ignored.

Customers expect to get fast, personalised and relevant information in social - just the way that they expect it in a car showroom. And they are comfortable getting this help anywhere online - whether it’s on a brand’s website, through their Twitter feed (regardless of whether they explicitly use the brand’s Twitter handle) or on a discussion forum or review website.

If Ford can sell an entire exclusive range of 500 cars through social why are many of their competitors relegating social to echoing brand campaigns or ‘how to’ videos?

Social is bringing car brands closer to the buyers.  We can now see where and how investment in social is working. But this is just the tip of the iceberg and for more details of the category’s heroes and villains click here for our broader cross-category research here or contact our lead for social value benchmark Rob Blackie (, @robblackie_oo)

Click here for digital marketing best practice and procurement insight

If you are not a registered user your comment will go to AM for approval before publishing. To avoid this requirement please register or login.

Comment as guest

Login  /  Register


No comments have been made yet.