There’s plenty of reasons for marketers to be bullish about the state of the automotive industry currently. Meta Client Partner Paul Balbo explores today’s immersive opportunities and how they are changing the game for the category.
At 930am on October 12 last year Hyundai Motor Company Australia rolled out its first batch of electric IONIQ 5 vehicles to buyers in Australia via its website. Less than 15 minutes later every last one had been snapped up.
That the vast majority of buyers had never even sat in the front seat did nothing to stop the stampede. The sheer desire to be a part of the next generation of sustainable driving spurred a rush on these innovative new cars.
This level of pent up demand in the market is just one reason why I believe auto marketers are entering a new golden age.
Yes, there are certainly economic challenges facing consumers at present. But advances in technology – and not just in the realm of electric vehicles (EVs) – mean that there’s a genuine reason to be excited if you’re in the business of selling cars.
And while EVs are getting buyers most excited at present, I believe this enthusiasm can extend to a manufacturer’s full range. This will certainly be the case if they’re equipped with the right immersive shopping tools, which will only continue to improve as new creative technology emerges. So let’s dig a little deeper.
In the market for a new car?
If you’ve considered buying a car lately, you’ll likely fall into one of three categories.
The first category we’ll call the ‘here and nows’ – people who simply need a car. They might be having a baby, or have a job that requires a vehicle to get around. This cohort of buyers are characterised by an unwillingness to wait. They need to make a purchase quickly and thus will be less picky.
The next group are the ‘choosers’ and they’ve got time on their side. They have the money to buy a car, but they want the trim, wheels and other mod cons tailored to their preferences. And they’re willing to wait to get the ideal vehicle.
The third cohort we’ll call the ‘delayers’. This group of buyers tend to be increasingly curious about EVs. They don’t have a lifestyle trigger to buy a car and aren’t fussed about utility – there’s probably not a Land Cruiser in their driveway. Environmental-consciousness, however, is a motivator for their next purchase. Although the soaring price of petrol is likely an even bigger factor.
All three of these cohorts are faced with the same challenges. Inventory levels in Australia are snake-belly low at present. War in Ukraine, lockdowns in China and other factors mean this shortage of vehicles will almost certainly be at least a two year problem.
In spite of this, all three cohorts are promising for auto vendors, with the latter two really offering big opportunities for those who offer the right enticements.
Tech me to your dealer
Marketers rejoice – despite the last two pandemic affected years, the demand for vehicles in Australia remains very strong. In particular, it’s being driven by interest from the rising, upwardly mobile 25-34 and 35-44 year-old demographics.
Yes, would-be buyers are often compelled to wait longer, but this development is opening the door for new approaches. With extended lead time, the ‘wow factor’ for customers pre-purchase is shaping as the key to success. Make no mistake, maximising the upper funnel and showroom experiences can be the difference between scoring a sale and missing out.
Savvy auto marketers are addressing this challenge in a number of ways. Hyundai Australia, for example, has created an end-to-end customer experience Messenger bot. Originally designed as a channel for existing customers, it has since turned into a fully-fledged shopping, vehicle customisation and customer service tool across Facebook, Instagram and on the company’s website.
With many prospective buyers still unsure of the ins and outs of EVs like the IONIQ 5, the Messenger bot quickly and efficiently resolves frequently asked questions. New visitors can engage with the bot, ask a few questions, and organise a test drive.
It’s just one method of shortening the path to purchase. And for younger digital natives especially, it’s an excellent way to get them excited about discovering new products and innovations.
The results speak for themselves. In the four months following the Messenger bot’s rollout, Hyundai Australia resolved an average of 300 inquiries per month, saving the customer care team 189 hours worth of calls.
Equally significantly, these gains have been entirely organic and aren’t as yet scaled with advertising – meaning even better results could follow.
Even more exciting perhaps for marketers is the march of AR and VR technology. In the past, immersive auto experiences have often had a cartoonish quality, but that’s not the case anymore. We’ve moved from a place of novelty to one of genuine utility.
There’s a few great examples out there. Meta’s proprietary Infinite Window is a new technology that employs detailed computer-aided-design to deliver photo-real, live-rendered interactive experiences.
Better still, it runs on any mobile device without the need for a download or plug-in. It means those who are interested can now take a highly realistic virtual test drive with a minimum of fuss. Infinite Window can also be used as a production tool, with video and stills from test drives able to be converted into digital campaign assets.
Virtual reality-based WebXR is another option that provides multiple experiences through a single URL. Manufacturers can create immersive test drives that can be accessed via website, mobile or even Oculus VR headsets – which can be made available in dealerships.
Buyers, for example, can take a car for a test drive, then use the headset to experience the full safety features. Or, alternatively, an immersive, fully costed build can be created – allowing customers to touch and see the trims, colours and accessories that might not be available on the dealership floor.
One thing’s for sure – the fidelity is well and truly here with these new technologies – offering experiences that really knock prospective buyers’ socks off.
So for auto marketers, there’s every reason to be optimistic right now. In fact, we’re at a pivotal point in the evolution of the industry. Brands that seize the moment have a once in a generation opportunity to take a leadership position. So why not put your foot to the floor?