The Engine Roars Again with a Digital Shift to Car Buying

A major industrial and economic force across the world, the automotive industry hit a major roadblock in the wake of the pandemic. As recently as March, car sales were down across the globe – seeing a drop of 55% in the UK; 85% in Italy; 72% in France; and 69% in Spain. 

Despite a challenging first quarter, there are now emerging signs of recovery. In China, where the post-Covid recovery phase is further along compared to other countries, car sales in May were up roughly 12% year-on-year, followed by 11.6% in June. With rising demand as Covid subsides, sales and advertising spend have followed suit.

Outbrain Network Trends – An Opportunity for Auto Marketers

As countries have slowly started to reopen, automotive content has been among the highest areas of growth in terms of page views on Outbrain’s network – and for good reason. With a strong push by governments for domestic travel this summer, people are increasingly looking to car ownership to reduce their use of public transportation and travel out of cities. Specifically, there’s been growing interest in family-oriented vehicles, with click-through rates for SUVs seeing a 33% increase since April.

Moreover, compared to the first quarter of the year, pageviews for hybrid and electric cars on our network have seen a 25% increase, as people who are environmentally conscious turn to cars as an alternative to public transport.

Thinking Differently for a Long-Term Strategy after Covid 

Automotive brands generally require multiple consumer interactions prior to purchase, and consumers do a considerable amount of research through digital touchpoints. In fact, car buyers consume an average of 11.4 pieces of online content prior to making a decision and walking into a dealership – under ordinary circumstances. As a result of the outbreak, 46% of consumers now want to minimise their visit to dealerships, opting to use digital channels for their information and purchase. 

In response, auto brands need to fully embrace a digital retail strategy and redirect those personal experiences from the physical world to online, so that they can continue to reach and engage with potential customers. Online advertising is not only key to bringing in these leads, but gaining consumer trust in order to move them through the marketing funnel. 

As Covid-related content will remain a significant driver of online reading and activity for the foreseeable future, quality news sites will continue to be the main outlet. These trusted publisher sites provide a crucial channel for brands to reach consumers with engaging content. Once people have completed reading a story, they are in ‘discovery mode’ looking for their next piece of content. It’s at this moment when consumers are open to learning about, and engaging with, content related to a new car model or car offer. This is why auto content discovered on premium publisher sites achieves a 79% increase in time spent per page compared to search. 

Native Video Powers Consideration

By combining the power of video storytelling and the efficiency of native advertising, native video formats help bring the car experience to life just like being at an in-person showroom. In fact, video is a big factor in the research process for car buyers, helping them discover a vehicle they weren’t previously aware of or even considering. Video also helps prospective buyers to compare and contrast their options, in terms of car features or models, and experience the vehicle in a way that few other ad formats allow. At minimum, reaching relevant target audiences with an engaging video format helps brands stay top-of-mind through better brand and product recall. A supporting mid-funnel tactic to engage with car buyers in their purchase decision is to use the mobile-first Carousel format, which enables marketers to spotlight different elements of their offer, such as the mileage or monthly payment, to achieve test drive registrations. In today’s new normal, it’s important to create online experiences in lieu of in-person ones to keep your brand and business strong. 

Drive Your Auto Campaign Forward with Outbrain

Let’s face it – brands have three options in this new normal. They can either choose to advertise as always and pretend the world hasn’t changed; significantly cut back on marketing spend; or be in business by engaging consumers across digital touchpoints that are more important than ever. The most successful auto brands choose the latter, and leveraging native advertising platforms like Outbrain help them come out stronger on the other side.  

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