Mo’ Mobile & Social Media Car Buyers: Automakers Should Promote Connected Car Apps

L2 Inc released research about auto sales as well connected car apps through the 6th annual Digital IQ Index: Auto 2018 report and connected car app data. The company found an increase in mobile traffic, more videos, fewer comparisons, more Instagram and stalled Facebook interactions. L2 also notes that by 2020, an estimated one-quarter of a billion connected cars will be on the road while automakers are not all highlighting their apps or connected services.

In 2017, an average of 61 percent of traffic to Index brand sites came from mobile devices. The average visit to an Index brand mobile site was two and a half minutes shorter and spanned four fewer pages than visits to desktop sites, reinforcing the need for brands to streamline and simplify their mobile touchpoints.

Auto brands are ramping up their online vehicle information pages as 95 percent of Index brands now offer product videos on their brand sites, 49 percent provide interior photos and 47 percent give 360 degree views. However, the number of brands who offer brand comparison tools dropped 16 percent between 2017 and 2018 indicating that Index brands may be wary of highlighting vulnerability.

Connected Car Apps Insights

Connected functionality has moved up the list of features consumers value: 40% of surveyed consumers say they would switch their car brand for more connectivity, up from 20% in 2014. Currently, 79% of auto brands support a connected car app that spans multiple vehicle models, according to Gartner L2’s latest auto insight report.

However, marketing strategies vary. While best-in-class brands clearly communicate the power of their connected car apps in the App Store and on their sites, 26% of auto brands with apps only provide app information in the owner’s section of their website—missing the chance to introduce this content during the consideration phase of the purchase process and thus ignite early interest. Other brands like Ferrari, Kia, and Smart fail to mention their apps on their websites entirely.

If auto brands want to drive more interest from the get-go, it would serve them well to include an app section on vehicle information pages depicting important connected features—a tactic Ford exemplifies. On Ford’s vehicle page, a simple box displays key functions of the FordPass app with a direct link to more details. By including imagery in its connected car sections, Ford can catch the customer’s eye, whereas apps simply listed in feature descriptions can be lost in the shuffle.

By hiding apps away as an afterthought, auto brands miss the opportunity to maximize the impact of their connected technology investments. Additionally, downplaying them makes it seem as if car apps have less functionality than they actually do. If car brands want to keep customer interest, they need to rev up their app marketing

Instagram & Facebook

Index brands generated 2.33 times as many Instagram interactions in Q4 2017 as in Q1 2016. While auto brand engagement on Instagram is accelerating, interactions on Facebook have stalled. In 2017, Auto Index brands generated almost four times as many interactions on Instagram as on Facebook.

“Non-Luxury brands have made clear investments in digital to stay top of mind of the evolving consumers,” explained Cody Stack, Senior Research Associate at L2. “Winning brands optimize their discovery and sales process for mobile by cutting extraneous features that clutter a page, while at the same time layering on mobile-specific features like pinch-to-zoom.”

“Estimates point to a slowdown of the auto industry by 2019,” noted Grant Torres, Director of Emerging Sectors Research at L2. “Combine this with developments in big tech and the race to create the first driverless car and auto brands are faced with even more uncertainty of what the future holds.”

The report features case studies on brands including but not limited to: Audi, Ford, GMC, Hyundai, Land Rover, and Volvo.

The L2 report benchmarks the digital performance of 43 Auto brands operating in the US, with a specific focus on key digital strategies and best practices for auto manufacturers to follow consumers into a mobile-first world. The Digital IQ Index methodology examines a brand’s strengths and weaknesses across the four digital dimensions of Site, Digital Marketing, Social, and Mobile. Index brands are classified as either Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged, or Feeble.