Automotive Digital Trends & Innovations

Since 2015 when think with Google identified the 5 auto shopping moments every brand must own, things have not changed much in the digital path-to-purchase. But, besides the path-to-purchase, in 2017 think with Google also observed that:

  • 95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information
  • The digital marketing budget of a car dealer should fall between 45% and 75% of the overall marketing budget
  • More than 40% of shoppers who watched a video about cars or trucks visited a dealer as a result

The 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study by Cox Automotive found that car buyers spend 61% of the total time spent getting a vehicle researching and shopping online. But in contrast to Google, which states that search is the main influencer in the path-to-purchase, Cox Automotive identifies third-party websites (like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, as the most used online resources for car shoppers:

Sources used to shop cars


Additional data provided by the Bain Global Automotive Consumer Survey 2017 predicts that almost 70% of annual auto sales (about 19 million units, generating $40 billion) will be digitally influenced by 2020

Mobile-first is a strong trend

  • 60% of all automotive searches come from a mobile device
  • local searches on mobile devices are growing 50% faster than mobile searches overall

Even the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. New Autoshopper Study confirms that 56% of automotive internet shoppers conduct product research on a mobile device. Last, but not least, a 2017 survey by Google and Kantar revealed that 65% of new car buyers use a smartphone to research.

Three major topics affect the auto path purchase


To improve the car mobile-shopping experience for both sellers and buyers, Google has introduced Automotive ads in March 2016.

Soon after the release of this advertising model, brands reported more than a 30% average increase in engagement rate with Model Automotive ads compared to standard text ads.

Car-buying apps are in

Based on the clear preference for digital and mobile, developers are already introducing mobile-only car shopping tools to simplify the purchase process but also to make car ownership attractive to more buyers.

  • Fair is a mobile car-shopping service launched to offer consumers the option to shop and pay for a vehicle entirely from a mobile app.
  • AutoGravity is an app that allows users to find a car and apply for financing with rates as low as 0.99% in a matter of minutes.
  • Blinker uses technology to put people, not car dealers, in control of every part of the car-buying or selling process – from listing their car for sale to getting a loan.

Social media matters

In 2017, Facebook partnered with dealership sites to make car buying easier on Facebook Marketplace. The social media behemoth now allows dealership listings, private sales, etc.

Twitter observed that nearly half of the car buyers in the US are on Twitter. Other social networks like Instagram and Snapchat can be used successfully to boost car sales too.

Due to its Marketplace, Facebook is currently the most successful social media platform for car sales and purchases. Just like Google, which introduced Automotive ads in 2016, Facebook has an ad product for auto: the Facebook Dynamic ads.

AR/VR technology changing the car shopping process

In 2016, Vroom has created a virtual reality showroom that allowed users to view car models from the comfort of their home. Using HTC Vive headsets, users were able to perform 360-degree-view test drives, access vehicle information, and hear the real sounds of specific engines roaring to life, all without having to spend the day at a dealership. AR and VR make sense for modern consumers now, but also for future consumers, the current Generation Z. A J. Walter Thompson Intelligence survey in 2016 revealed that 80% of Gen Z shoppers said they are eager to visit stores offering VR technology.

The connected car

The connected car is no longer a luxury item. For the past couple of years manufacturers begun including connectivity features even in economy cars. Sure, there are still many barriers both technological and economic, but the connected car is a matter of now.  Auto makers expect to introduce futuristic features like AI learning for a car virtual personal assistant as early as 2020. 

Omnichannel in automotive

In 2013, Frost & Sullivan predicted that 4% of all new cars sold in future, about 4.5 million cars, could be sold completely online by 2020, based on 5000 cars sold online in 2011.

While offline remains a core component for car buyers, technology will soon enable more direct purchases. The foundation for a seamless omnichannel experience for car buyers is set. To make it work, sellers need to adapt now.


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