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Guest opinion: Delivering better experiences in an increasingly connected automotive world

In an era no short of connectivity and with access to the world at our finger tips, providing unfiltered, accessible and consumer-driven content is priceless, writes Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, EMEA vice president of marketing at Bazaarvoice.

In Bazaarvoice’s latest Conversation Index Research, based on an analysis of over 57 million reviews and more than 35 billion product page views, the study revealed that consumer generated content (CGC) influenced the decision to purchase a car for 71% of respondents across the globe. This figure increased further for specific age groups, with over 88% of 18-24 year-old stating that CGC influenced their car purchasing decision, whilst higher income earns over $150,000 agreed by a staggering 88% that CGC affected their decision-making process.

The opinions of peers have always held sway over consumers’ purchasing decisions and these opinions are now easier to reach than ever. As a Trusted Dealers’ survey of 1,000 motorists found, this is especially true in the automotive industry, where buyers are increasingly using the internet for every part of the purchasing process; including researching aspects such as dealer reviews, price and car location.

Consumers place their faith in the opinions of others based on the online content they produce – and in fact, reviews or consumer generated content (CGC) have now become the primary influence over consumers’ discovery, evaluation, purchase and ongoing engagement with a brand.

According to a survey by Invesp Consulting, 90% of customers read reviews before visiting a business and the impact of CGC shows no signs of slowing down. Reviews have become even more important when purchasing products that require a lot of consideration, like automobiles. The automotive industry has a collective 660M+ reviews live today and, globally, CGC usage continues to rise across the EMEA region. Interestingly, it is predominately the younger millennials and consumers in higher income brackets who seek out CGC to help select their motor vehicles. Capgemini’s annual global automotive study found that 94% of car buyers start their shopping experience online and have already done their homework, browsed websites, consulted social media networks and read online reviews before even stepping into a showroom.

As the number of consumers who research online and buy offline (ROBO shoppers) continues to rise, the ROBO shopper — once viewed as problematic — is fast becoming the norm in the automotive industry, pushing automotive businesses to acknowledge the need to bridge the gap between online and offline processes.

Some automotive manufacturers have even taken it a step further – Audi’s London city show room is the smallest Audi dealership in the UK, with only four cars in the showroom. Nonetheless, during the first year of its opening, 50 per cent of customers ordered vehicles without even taking a test drive. A study from Frost and Sullivan estimates that by the end of the decade, around 100 of this type of automotive flagship stores will have opened globally.

In fact, Autotrader’s 2014 Annual Buyer Behaviour Survey found that the average number of visits buyers make to a forecourt before purchasing a car is just 2.2, half of what it was in 2010 and equal to a reduction of 15 million visits in total.

Customers no longer need to visit a showroom to get all the information they need to purchase a car, as they can look up online whatever they feel is necessary, before they have even stepped through the doors. As a result, automotive retailers are seeing as much as an 86% lift in conversion for visitors using CGC as opposed to those visitors who didn’t use CGC while shopping offline. Automotive brands are enjoying a 97% lift in conversion for visitors who used CGC versus those visitors who didn’t use CGC while shopping offline.  

As the number of consumers who research online and buy offline continues to rise, automotive businesses need to consider reviews as an important marketing opportunity. Savvy firms are able to see what the customer experience looks like, by gathering data on who their customers are. They can get actionable insight into the types of consumers that are looking for them not only online, but also have access to people and traffic patterns in store.

Customer reviews are a way for companies to look at direct feedback from their consumers, whether positive or negative, and adapt their business accordingly, to prove that they are really listening. CGC opens up a conversation between brands and consumers and, much like in the automotive industry, with even more purchases moving online, leveraging CGC becomes more vital for businesses. Data is extremely precious for both brands and consumers alike; the successful use of CGC can drive a business to deliver a consistent, authentic and much more personalised purchasing experience to their customers... It is by understanding their customers’ purchasing identity and needs, and through clear, open and transparent communications, that businesses will be able to successfully deliver better experiences. 

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