Accelerating change: are auto brands meeting the needs of modern users?

Deryck Chester, Marketing Executive
03 December 2019

In the recent article for Auto Retail Profit magazine, our Chief Growth Officer Rebecca Crook describes how digital can be used to approach some of the major issues affecting the automotive industry. In particular, how the traditional car showroom is a touchpoint failing to meet modern customers’ expectations. Here are the key insights discussed.

Traditionally, car purchases and model evaluation took place in showrooms or forecourts. But, with the digital revolution now hitting the automotive industry, the majority of customers are conducting their research – and buying things – online. As people become more comfortable with purchasing big items online, the trend for customers buying cars online will rise.   

Surprisingly, despite customers’ growing expectations and the new industry-adopted customer experience standards, a large number of top auto brands and dealerships are still to harness the transformative benefits of digital; instead remaining reliant on simple websites which are often ill-equipped to truly support the buyer journey. Car buyers today are often enticed with slick imagery and punchy copy, but as they click past the home page, that first impression quickly evaporates.     

Somo recently worked with Audi UK to redesign their website, for that very reason. Our research showed that 75% of customers found the existing website confusing – making it difficult to compare models and make important decisions. Rebecca believes this is a common experience found across the industry. She urges the auto sector to shift their focus to delivering digital that makes a real difference for customers. The new state-of-the-art website Somo has designed for Audi UK re-imagines how auto brands can showcase cars online; and it’s a fantastic example of how the automotive industry can give customers a premium experience that pushes KPIs, without detracting from what’s important – discovering the product.        

She states: “Building a best-in-class website experience is paramount, especially with the rise in online car buyers. But, there is also plenty of work to do to improve the car buying experience across all customer touchpoints”. 

Findings for one of our recent auto projects showed that the majority of car buyers have a clear idea of what they want, 14% of car buyers need comprehensive support, only 1 in 3 feels confident about the purchasing process, and only 15% enjoy the experience. The research was conducted by Iris – a full-service marketing agency who analysed the responses of over 2000 customers to understand the car retailer landscape.  

Of all the ‘eye-opening’ car buyer research, the most staggering findings reveal that only 6% of people said that they trust car salespeople and only 12% find them helpful. Unsurprisingly, car buyers no longer appear to enjoy the outdated physical experience – feeling overwhelmed and hassled by pushy showroom salespeople; or even under-informed or neglected by staff who should be supporting them. 

Bearing in mind that the retailer showroom is still a core part of the car purchasing journey, these results bring into sharp focus the need for all brands to do more and meet the expectations of modern customers.

ŠKODA has recently asked Somo to re-imagine their car buying experience. They had already made some improvements to their digital touchpoints, but – within their showroom – they were lacking the right tools to truly improve their customers’ purchasing journey. Somo delivered Digital Assistant tablet app, enabling customers to explore the full model range, finance options and compare ŠKODA’s car specs to those of its competitors; whilst giving sales assistants instant access to information. Because, ultimately, trust is built by transparency and ŠKODA have embraced the challenge laid-out by its customers, demonstrating the confidence they have in its products.

Rebecca concludes that the auto industry sector is a competitive market, and many leading brands are failing to offer customer experiences which reflect the sophisticated expectations of modern car buyers. Creating seamless transactions between the digital and traditional physical environments – for customers who are used to having connectivity at their fingertips – is how automotive brands will succeed in future proofing their industry.