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Automakers Shift Investment from Traditional Advertising to Digital Strategies for Vehicle Launches

Social Media and the Digital Consumer Continue to Drive the Future of Automotive Manufacturers' Marketing Strategies

DETROIT--Aug. 20, 2013: Consumers are driving the changes in the car buying experience and automakers are adjusting their marketing strategies to influence the decision making process. According to PwC's Autofacts Analyst Note for August, automakers are investing in new social media and digital campaigns to launch vehicles and engage the next generation of consumers.

While automotive manufacturers may still need some convincing about the benefits of using readily available information from social media, engagement in these channels is driving change in the automotive industry.

"As the use of social media continues to expand, automakers need to better understand how to connect with end consumers from purchase consideration to the length of vehicle ownership," said Erich Bergen, PwC's automotive customer impact consulting practice. "To succeed, automakers need to consider a holistic approach to selling to the next generation buyers. From training retail outlets to engaging through a loyalty program, each buyer has their own digital footprint and this creates an opportunity for automakers to engage."

Three underlying consumer trends that are creating opportunities for innovation and driving change in automotive retail include:

Millennials, defined as 18 to 30 year olds, make up 40 percent of the total available car buying population, contributing $200 billion to the US economy annually. The acceleration of social media usage, with 70 percent of consumers using social media to learn about other customer experiences when making car buying decisions. Proliferation of connected mobile devices, such as smart phones, provides integration and connectivity for OEMs to develop cross-platform apps to enhance the driving experience. Each factor is connected to the car buying experience, ultimately molding the strategies of OEMs' marketing programs.

Automotive companies can leverage available data through social media channels in varying stages of the "social engagement journey," by one-way communication, and also by utilizing the feedback from consumers to customize their marketing strategies. According to a recent PwC survey, consumers are more likely to recommend a product after following the brand on Twitter. Specifically, 69 percent of consumers share their negative experience with others through social media, and 40 percent of consumers value the option to shop across multiple channels, such as web, mobile and in-store.

Automotive selling has transitioned from one-way sales to a two-way digital platform. Buyer expectations continue to drive toward flexibility and accessible purchasing options. OEMs should embrace the benefits of a strong social media presence and utilize the on-going dialogue of their brand and products to better understand consumer sentiment to adjust their marketing strategies and help drive revenue growth.