Three research-driven PPC tips for the automotive industry

If you’re an automaker or car dealer, 2016 should be a good year for sales.

Intensive research conducted by my data scientist colleagues at Bing Ads shows that digital media, especially search, will be the perfect place to capture the attention of prospective petrol-heads as they venture out on their car-buying journey.

What’s driving solid car sales?

Well, interest rates as well as fuel rates are low while the consumer index, according to an IBISWorld industry report, remains high. As a result – additional disposable income and improved credit scores – demand for cars is also likely to increase. In fact, auto sales are forecast to grow through 2020, with growth peaking in 2018.

us auto industry revenue

So what can car manufacturers and dealers do to ensure they make the most of this opportune time?

Here are three solid tips, to help you accelerate towards some meaningful digital connections with potential auto-shoppers:

Look to the younger audience for hybrid, electric or diesel vehicles

If you’re a green car manufacturer, make sure you’re appealing to the millennials. “The Harris Poll” from Harris Interactive revealed that 57% of US millennials (18-37) would consider a traditional hybrid for their next lease or purchase. Compare that with just 43% of Baby Boomers willing to do the same.

There is one drawback – the higher price points is seen as a deterrent. Research from J.D. Power revealed that almost one in four buyers of gas-powered vehicles avoided the hybrid model due to cost.

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Take action:

  • Customize your creative to appeal to the younger generation, focusing on advances in technology and positive environmental impact.
  • Add bid modifiers to your search campaigns based on age group, bidding up for the age ranges most likely to purchase a green vehicle.
  • Alleviate cost concerns through your creative.
    • Use ad copy to highlight discounts and offers – six in 10 car shoppers are influenced by promotions according to a RadiumOne study.
    • On your landing pages, share additional financial incentives they may receive such as government subsidies or lifetime fuel savings.

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Use the fact that brand loyalty is scarce to your advantage

According to a Facebook study, only two in five shoppers have an early brand preference – in fact very few shoppers are exposed to digital ads early in the purchase process. This means there is a ripe opportunity to build brand and model awareness.

Microsoft’s internal data shows that consumers considered an average of 9.8 makes and 11.4 models prior to making their purchase decision.

PPC can be vital in this process since most shoppers will conduct their research online before visiting a dealership, according to Accenture.

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Take action:

  • Bing’s Remarketing in paid search or Google’s RLSA ads are your friends here.
    • Bid on competitive terms
    • Consider bidding even on luxury vehicles to account for aspirational searches

Use ad copy that’s proven to work

Digital ads are the most influential type of ad during the car-shopping process – more so than TV or print according to a study of U.S. car shoppers by G/O Digital. Yet the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that only 36% of auto marketers in the U.S. use paid search advertising.

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With a quarter of car buyers reporting via a study by Nationwide that they find shopping for a car to be as stressful as preparing taxes or buying a home, effective ad copy can make a big difference.

When we think of ad copy, don’t limit yourself just to words. Car-buying is a visual process, with four in 10 searches being for images of cars. Microsoft’s internal data shows that 45% of consumers viewed more than 36.7 car images on a search engine.

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Mobile devices mustn’t be ignored either. According to research by SessionM, seven in 10 smartphone users use their mobile device when shopping for a vehicle.

Here’s how the usage breaks down:

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Take action:

  • Add image extensions to your ad to grab searcher attention and showcase latest or most popular models.
  • Take advantage of new ad formats such as Google’s auto-specific ads or Bing Ads’ new video extensions for mobile devices (currently in beta).
  • Use words that work. Here are the top five ad combinations across devices:

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  • Don’t forget the Sitelink extensions. These are a fantastic and underused opportunity to simplify the car buying process. Microsoft data shows that Sitelink extensions can result in a 13% improvement in Click through Rate (CTR), with Enhanced Sitelinks having a 22% average higher CTR.

These data-driven tips PPC tips for the auto industry compiled by data scientists from Bing Ads are sure to help you on your road to an extra-profitable 2016. Digital media, especially search, is the perfect place to insert your brand right at the start of the car-buyer research phase.

By the smart use of visual cues, demographic targeting and by paying attention to what ad copy resonates best, you’ll be well on the way to an empty car lot by the end of the year!

Feeling inspired? Share your favorite tips and ideas in the comments below.

Purna Virji is Senior Bing Ads Client Development and Training Manager at Microsoft and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

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