Kantar TNS Sinotrust’s CONNECT media touchpoint study surveys luxury car buyers in 100 Chinese cities to improve understanding of touchpoint management for luxury car brands.
In the more than 100 years history of automobile marketing, brands have organized their marketing efforts around the traditional decision making funnel. Car buyers’ purchasing path has been linear and brands used to have strong influence over them: when consumers had a need to buy a vehicle, a number of brands would emerge in their mind (the wider side of the funnel); as consumers continued filtering out brands and moving towards the narrower end of the funnel, brands would reach out to them through different media touchpoints and persuade them to choose their brands.
The explosion of touchpoints
However, in the recent 20 years, thanks to the rapid expansion of Internet and hence other new media, we have witnessed the “explosion of touchpoints” and consumers’ path to purchase has changed fundamentally. There are 45 different media touchpoints to be carefully taken care of now.
In the post-touchpoint explosion era, consumers will constantly use search engines for information throughout their purchasing journey; they will visit websites and watch video to learn about vehicles’ specs and performances; they will start conversation at social media platforms to exchange opinions with peer consumers they don’t already know; they will also check out other buyers’ comments about their experiences to finalize their decisions.
During this new path, car buyers’ media touchpoints are no longer limited to traditional channels – car exhibition, dealer shops or salesperson. They have much more channels to absorb information independently. The new path to purchase calls for a change of brand communications strategy: from one-way traffic to two-way conversation. Only brands which can update their communications strategy to manage touchpoints in this new era can survive the challenges and continue to win.
Localized media touchpoint strategy
Because Internet development is at different levels in different Chinese city tiers, brands need to design touchpoint portfolios accordingly for bigger and smaller cities.
Car owners, and potential owners, in tier-1 and 2 cities have great experiences in using Internet. Vertical auto portal websites, general portal websites and search engines are three most important Internet touchpoints. Vertical auto portal sites’ high penetration rate among car users means they have become more valuable for auto brands. So brand owners should consider create campaigns specifically suitable for these channels as their priorities.
But at smaller cities, people are not only less savvy in Internet skills, but also need more basic information of automobiles. They prefer more direct face-to-face channels, such as offline car exhibition and sales shops. We recommend car brands to host more and better exhibitions in smaller cities, give more support to dealer network as well as buy more exposure on TV and airports in tier-3 and 4 cities.
Our research has found that a proper mix of media touchpoint usage will initiate and maintain more extensive, in-depth and effective two-way conversations with consumers. It will also effectively shorten the purchasing procedure.
Luxury brands’ responses
There were times when affluent Chinese bought luxury brands, the number of which was quite limited in China back then, just to show off their brands, and hence premium car makers were enjoying lucrative sales growth without much trouble. Now, with consumers asking more questions during their purchasing, more brands coming to China, and more potential buyers coming from younger generations, luxury brands need to reinvent their strategies and communicate the right messages through right mix of touchpoints.
According to CONNECT, the latest auto media touchpoint management study, touchpoint mix varies significantly across different auto brands in China.
For instance, consumers access notable luxury car brands such as ABB (abbreviation for Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW in China) through nine - 10 media touchpoints; four – five to brands such as Volvo, Lexus, Range Rover, and Cadillac; closely following are brands like Infiniti, Jaguar, and Porsche, with three touchpoints; whilst Lincoln and Maserati, only one - two touchpoints.
“It is important to understand the recent contribution of each touchpoint on driving brand strength. No matter it’s an ABB brand or a challenging brand, around 30% of its brand strength is contributed by recent touchpoint performance,” said Jerry Yao, Associate Research Director of Kantar TNS Sinotrust, China’s biggest automotive research firm.
Analysing ABB’s strategies, we can see that apart from traditional touchpoints such as circulate advertisement through TV and airports, exhibit cars in shopping mall, etc., ABB brands also employing new touchpoints to promote their brands and increase sales conversion, such as TV show sponsorship, product placement and Internet video ad.
For less well-known luxury brands in China, search engine, car exhibition in airport and push up ad/advertorials by big WeChat public account are more effective to help raise brand awareness. Search engine could help consumers to access product webpage in real time, gather detailed information and features, and auto exhibition at the airport could bring a direct and impactful perception to prospects, while WeChat push up ad/advertorials could quickly identify target consumer groups.
It is challenging for car makes to optimize their marketing spends, given the fact there are 45 different media touchpoints available nowadays. After all, the journey is too complex and too many details are involved.
Kantar TNS Sinotrust’s CONNECT is based on the latest “Behavioural Economics” theory and is designed to help auto manufacturers to understand the contribution of touchpoint performance on driving brand strength, and to optimize their marketing spends. Identify the core touchpoints which are most effective to enhance brand strength, with analysis done at sub-groups by city tier, region, and consumer types, etc.
“CONNECT doesn’t just reveal current performance, but also further investigate touchpoint priority in terms of its impact on sales and ROI performance, therefore provide improvement guidance to auto brands,” Jerry said.
Source: Kantar TNS Siinotrust