Byravee Iyer
Sep 23, 2013

Online and mobile key to auto-purchasing journey: Google

SINGAPORE - Automotive brands need to step up their digital spend because online video platforms have forever changed the way people buy cars, according to Google’s 2013 global auto shopper study, titled ‘Gearshift 2013’.

Most car buyers enter the market undecided
Most car buyers enter the market undecided

The study, shared exclusively with Campaign Asia-Pacific, revealed that 93 per cent of buyers use search engines for auto research. This is particularly high in Indonesia (96 per cent), Malaysia (93 per cent) and Vietnam (95 per cent). Seventy-four per cent in Southeast Asia watch auto videos for research before purchasing a car, with Thailand (87 per cent) and Vietnam (88 per cent) leading the way. Eight out 10 use YouTube to view videos. This number is highest in Indonesia, Vietnam (87 per cent) and Thailand (85 per cent).

Google interviewed 35,000 auto buyers in 22 countries, aged 18 to 64. The qualitative research was conducted online earlier this year. In Southeast Asia, 5,000 new and used car buyers were interviewed in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We think the consumer journey of car purchasing has changed significantly,” said Tobias Berger, industry manager, Google. “People used to look at TV or newspaper ads and then visit a dealership and make a car purchase.”

Today, just 22 per cent of consumers in Southeast Asia enter the market knowing exactly what to buy while 72 per cent need to decide on a make and model and 6 per cent have no idea what to buy. On average, consumers take up to three months to decide which car to buy. What’s more, two in five consumers change their minds during this period. This is a huge opportunity for marketers and dealers to reach out to consumers, Berger said.

Mobile plays an important role too, with a third of people looking up addresses, contact information, business hours of dealers and price comparisons on their phones.

Berger said that Google has seen a significant increase in digital ad expenditure in the last 12 months, but that advertisers in the sector are only just getting their feet wet. Much of their spend goes towards search and display.

“The great thing about YouTube for brands that may not have a video asset—there’s an opportunity to reach consumers as they are searching for auto content,” Berger said. Brands can use non-video opportunities on YouTube, such as its rich-media masthead.

Case Study: Toyota Lexus

One brand that’s making the most of growing video consumption is Toyota’s Lexus, which recently launched a campaign for the new IS model. It launched the campaign to support its distributors in Asia-Pacific and build awareness in the market. The timing was right: YouTube had just launched its one channel design to include photos, trailers and so on that would have a unified look across all devices. Lexus focused on advertising on YouTube’s masthead in five of its markets and used True View in-stream videos in one market.

“YouTube gave us some really good exposure, with the masthead garnering 5.4 million views,” said Morgan Dilks, manager of digital marketing at Toyota Motor APAC. Toyota has also started embedding video content on its websites.

Recently, General Motors, one of the largest advertisers globally, tweaked its media mix in Korea, shifting television dollars in favour of video advertising in an effort to increase market share in the digital-savvy country. GM is also doing something similar in Thailand. 

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