The folks at Google must know that I’m the son of an automotive marketer, because they gave me an advanced look at an article written by David Mogensen, Google’s Head of YouTube Ads Product Marketing and a former automotive marketer, before it was published today on Think with Google. The brand new report includes insights and trends from Google search and YouTube data, as well as data from the 2015 Google/TNS Auto Shopper Study, and new research that Google commissioned from Millward Brown Digital around the consumer sales funnel for buying a car.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The average car shopper today only makes two dealership visits.
  • 60% of car shoppers enter the market unsure of which car to buy.
  • 70% of people who used YouTube as part of their car buying process were influenced by what they watched.
  • Views on YouTube of test drives, features and options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the past year.
  • Mobile searches from dealership lots increased 46% in the last year.

Car Buyers Turn Online to Research and Review

This is a very different world than the one my father knew throughout his career at Oldsmobile, which spanned almost 40 years from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. He would be intrigued to discover just how dramatically the auto buying process has changed in the past 30 years. Yes, the average car shopper still wants to kick the tires and take a test drive. But, before visiting a dealership these days, car shoppers have already gone online to research models, find deals, and get real-time advice. According to the 2015 Google/TNS Auto Shopper Study, the average car purchaser today makes just two visits to dealerships. These visits are preceded by numerous micro-moments times when car shoppers turn to digital and mobile devices to help select the perfect vehicle for their needs.

In these micro-moments before car shoppers take a single step onto the polished floors of a dealer’s showroom, they’re making decisions and forming opinions by doing their own research online. That’s why it’s very important for automotive manufacturers to use YouTube as part of their branding campaigns. And it’s absolutely essential for video marketers with car dealers as clients to be there and be useful in these moments that matter, if they want to be one of the two dealerships that car shoppers visit when they’re ready to buy. Here are the five micro-moments that matter the most in the automotive shopper’s path to purchase that marketers need to understand:

Consumer Micro Moments: What Car is Best For me? 

According to Google's research, 6 out of 10 people shopping for cars enter the market unsure of which car to buy. To help narrow their choices, many will start by consulting someone they trust. This can come in the form of reaching out friends, reading specialist blogs, visiting car forums, or searching for information via review sites.

But, the critical data shows that these early research moments are increasingly influenced by video. 69% of the people who used YouTube while buying a car were influenced by it – a higher percentage than TV, newspapers, or magazines. In addition, YouTube has seen a huge increase in searches for car reviews – everything from in-depth expert reviews from YouTube creators to more traditional industry reviewers that compare two cars head-to-head in the same video. According to Google, car review videos on YouTube have been watched more than 3 million hours in the first 9 months of 2015, of which more than 1.2 million were on mobile, more than twice as many as last year.

car buyers youtube

Consumer Micro Moments: Is That Car Right For Me?

Consumers will look for information about the practicalities of owning a car, like the amount of seats, number of airbags etc.  Video consumption ranks very highly at this stage in the customer sales cycle, and people generally tend to search for 3 types of car video:

  • Test drives of particular makes and models
  • Videos that focus on features of different makes and models
  • Interior and exterior car walk-throughs

According to Google, time spent watching these kinds of auto videos has nearly doubled in the past year alone.

TwG_AutoMoments_Infographic

What kind of video content are consumers searching for? Google confirm that  searches for 'trunk space', and 'towing capacity', for example, are up 15% and 30% year-on-year. Also, web interest for features like 'panoramic sunroof' is up 31%.

Consumer Micro Moments: Can I Afford That Car?

Once shoppers decide on a make and model, they need to know if they can afford to run it. And for many who are looking to trade in their old car, the value of that model is just as important to them. According to Google Trends, interest in trade-in value was at record levels this summer – up 17% in July. And, as of August 2015, more than 50% of these searches were on mobile, according to Google Internal Data.

Seasonality also plays an important role. Every February, for instance, Google Trends shows a spike in search interest for cars “for sale under [given amount],” possibly due to people anticipating a big tax return? Summer is another important seasonal moment. Search interest for “lease deals” peaked this summer, up 20% compared to last year.

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Consumer Micro Moments: Where Should I Buy That Car?

Even as the majority of the car shopping process moves online, the visit to the nearby car dealership still remains a crucial step in the journey. In fact, search interest for “car dealerships near me” have doubled in the past year, according to Google Trends. Also, 84% of consumers will use a mobile device to search for dealership location, and opening hours. Perhaps unsurprisingly, searches for reviews on different dealerships tend to spike at the weekend.

Consumer Micro Moments: Am I Getting a Good Deal?

Mobile searches on deals from dealership lots increased 46% in the last year, according to Google. In fact, 50% of car shoppers will use their smartphones when they are in the actual dealership to search for better deals, reviews etc. Searches for Kelley Blue Book and competing dealers occur more often when at the dealership.

Video Marketers: Master the Auto Micro Moment

Consumers are searching online, both on the web, and on YouTube, for the best information on buying a car.  But according to Google, only 22% of buyers go on to purchase the make and model of car they first searched on. That's a HUGE opportunity for car manufacturers, and car dealerships to use video marketing on YouTube to reach potential customers.  So how can brands and dealerships take advantage?:

  • Have an Online Presence: It’s crucial that automotive manufacturers and dealers be there when and where people are looking. Try going through each of the above steps yourself, as though you were in the market for a new car. Are you there at each step?
  • Be Informative and Useful: Beyond being there, consider how you can best meet the car buyer’s needs at each step.  If you work at a manufacturer, help when people are looking for videos and images of your cars, exploring configurations and building their own, or comparing your brand to competitive vehicles. If you work at a dealership, help make it easy for customers to do the things they do most, like value their trade-in, search for prices and inventory, or find your store. And don’t forget to make it all as easy on mobile as it is on desktop.
  • Be Quick: Mobile phones have made us all impatient. We expect to find anything we need at the tips of our fingers. As a result, marketing cars is a bit like playing Jeopardy. It’s not just about who has the right answer. It’s also about who answers it the quickest. And the stakes for getting it wrong are high. If you aren’t there with the right answer, the moment shoppers are looking, chances are someone else will be.

For more information, you can access the Google report in full at The 5 Auto Shopping Moments Every Brand Must Own.