This is a guest post by Tim Flattery (main photo), head of CarsGuide Labs…
Instantaneous access to information and improvements in technology have created a world where we no longer have to retain information. Instead, we can simply gather what we need at the touch of a button. Evidence of this cultural shift includes changes in education best practice, which has seen curriculums move away from memorising facts and figures to teaching students how to research and locate the information they need on a case-by-case basis.
Moreover, our digital literacy has increased incrementally due to COVID. Over the past year, the global pandemic has seen technology giants benefitting as many succumbed to the necessity of online shopping. As a result, many consumers are enjoying a more simplified purchasing journey, making the need for brands to be present on review and comparison sites more important than ever.
The Ehrenberg-Bass principle states that to truly succeed at advertising, brands need to be available 24/7 to be seen and considered by consumers in the category. While theoretically correct, being ‘always on’ is prohibitively expensive in an ‘attention economy’. We need to understand the modern customer journey to tactically position ourselves in front of the engaged intender. The opportunity provided by review and comparison sites is compelling and affordable. We know the consumer is primed for purchase and so the influential opportunity for brands is huge.
In our most recent CarsGuide research report – The Digital Influence Study – 65 percent of car-buying intenders did not know or weren’t sure of which car brand to buy at the beginning of the research stage. That’s a huge number of people open to influence. Each intender spends on average 2.7 hours a week researching which vehicle to buy. In fact, 52 percent of buyers spend three months or less researching and the remaining 48 percent spend 4 months to a year searching for the perfect vehicle to suit their lifestyle. This shows the volume of time and information required to be truly present in front of an actively researching intender. The net result of the intender’s initial research phase is that at the start of the consideration stage they were looking at 3.1 brands and as the active research stage begins their consideration set more than doubles to 7.2 brands. To be included in that group of options, it is critical that a brand is visible as a choice during the research stage.
So where should brands be targeting with their advertising efforts and spend? When it comes to automotive car purchases, 76 percent of people intending to buy visit car review and car comparison platforms. Of course, review platforms stand true for other categories as well. When we book accommodation, we rarely remember the name of a fabulous hotel a colleague recommended. Instead, we also seek out information and recommendations in trusted news sites or magazines and rely on the opinion of an industry professional. Car review platforms also prompt intenders to consider new brands and models. In fact, 7 in 10 respondents from our 2020 Digital Influence Study agree that car review sites got them considering new brands and models. Here expert journalists creating trusted reviews becomes our first port of call.
Which brings us to a vital point. Not all review sites are created equal. A simple list of products and services does not mean that a consumer will make a decision based on their recommendation. Trust of the review site becomes directly attributable to the trust in the quality of the brand they recommend. When we come to booking a tradesperson, we turn to trusted institutions like Hipages, confident that the crowd reviews on the platform and the company’s expertise will point us in the right direction. The same can be said of any review, listing or comparison platform – it lives and dies by the trust placed in it by its audience.
Much like the printing press, improved digital availability and literacy has changed how we live and operate as a society. The new consumer journey is not based solely on brand recognition, but instead involves engaged consumers actively researching ahead of making a purchase decision. To be part of a consideration set, companies need to respond by being online 24/7 and the most effective strategy is to be visible where intenders are visiting – primarily review and listing platforms. Consumers no longer need to retain information, instead we may be entering a world where review and comparison sites become the last brand consumers need to remember.
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