It’s Time for Automotive Marketers to Accelerate Their Digital Transformations

Last Fall, I wrote about our industry’s “Road to a Zero Friction Future” and pointed out some of the brands and dealerships that were removing friction in the auto consumer journey.

Fast forward one year later: Covid-19 has propelled consumers into a world where bringing the car buying experience online isn’t just innovative, it’s crucial to doing business. According to CarGurus’s “U.S. Covid-19 Sentiment Study,” 61% of car buyers are now open to buying online—almost twice as many as before the pandemic.

Auto brands can adapt to these new expectations by taking inspiration from digitally native companies who have been at it for years. 

1. Mobilize your brand

With 70% of people surveyed worldwide saying that they’re spending more time on their smartphones according to GWI Coronavirus Research, auto marketers should question whether their brand efforts are designed for traditional horizontal formats or for the mobile, often vertical, way people are increasingly experiencing their brands. 

However, auto marketers often respond to this guidance with a challenge—as one CCO put it, “We’re selling cars, not skyscrapers!”

The Facebook Creative Shop is working hand in hand with the best creative agencies in the world to turn the mobile challenge on its head. We recently developed our “Play With Cars” production playbook to help auto marketers build thumb-stopping vertical creative to ensure they drive the most impact from their advertising investment. Our recent study found that videos built with vertical or square creative on average achieved a 31% higher ROAS compared to horizontal creative.

2. Fuel discovery commerce

Digital native and direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies know that commerce has moved from “show me everything” to “show me what will delight me.” There are over 3.1 billion people on Facebook’s platforms who are located all over the world, yet no two experiences are alike. Consumers are being served curated and personalized content based on their interests and what’s meaningful to them, thanks to machine learning. It’s this same engine that curates the right ads for people, too. More than 9 million advertisers use our platforms to reach audiences interested in their products. Facebook enables the right products to find the right people through what is called discovery commerce. The long-held principle of targeting a highly qualified car-buying audience holds true, but with discovery commerce, the audience segmentation process is automated through machine learning. Our advertisers have seen significant improvement to their KPIs using machine learning vs. manual audience segmentation.

Discovery commerce is especially important for automotive marketers, because data from Accenture’s “Auto Consumer Study” shows that 73% of U.S. car buyers start shopping with just one to two brands in mind. The discovery Facebook enables allows brands that may not initially be top-of-mind to get into that coveted consideration set.

3. Bring the test drive home

Did you know that the standard flow in ecommerce is now just five taps from seeing a product to checking out?

To adapt that kind of convenience to the highly considered auto purchase, auto marketers are relying on powerful tools such as augmented reality ads and Facebook Live. Today, consumers can open up their smartphone’s camera to experience a vehicle sitting virtually in their driveway through AR or do a vehicle walkaround from the comfort of their home via Facebook Live.

For that consultative element to help guide the purchase process, consumers are turning to messaging. In a recent Facebook-commissioned global study, 40% of people who had purchased a product or service via online chat said that chat was how they first started shopping online. Brands and dealers are now using Messenger to help shoppers do everything from configure vehicles and browse inventory to schedule test drives and make financing decisions, in both automated and personalized ways.

The ”digitally native” moniker need not only be the territory of unicorns or DTC start-ups. By bringing car-buying online in the above three steps, this is more than possible—it’s the next natural step for the auto industry. For more inspiration, visit