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Automotive Companies Need to Take Back the Online Shopping Space

Why are automotive companies allowing third-party auto sites to control and dominate the online car shopping process? Next time you are sitting on your couch watching TV or online streaming video, pay attention to the automotive commercials. One thing you may notice is that none of them tell you to go to their website in any meaningful way.

So, they take the time and money to create a video ad that displays a beautiful new product they have developed and brought to market, and they give you reasons why you should purchase their product, but they never once tell you why you should visit their website to find out more and further explore the product. Since there are now numerous third-party auto sites, you will usually see a third-party auto ad in the same commercial break. So these same consumers who just watched an OEM commercial highlighting a product they may want to buy, are now watching a commercial for a car shopping website, enticing them to visit the third-party site to conduct their shopping, rather than the OEM site.

Why are auto companies willing to let this happen? These same auto companies then turn around and pay millions of dollars to these third-party sites to advertise on them. So, now they are paying millions of dollars in order to advertise to many of the same consumers they refused to direct to their website during their video/TV ads. When a consumer views these display ads on a third-party site, and ultimately clicks on them, they are finally taken to the auto OEM’s website.

automotiveDoes anyone else see the problem here? Why wait until they get to a third-party automotive site to direct them to your OEM site? I understand that not every consumer is going to go to multiple OEM sites, so third-party sites, where all those brands are represented in one place, have value and a role to play. But auto manufacturers should not be so willing to let them dominate the online car shopping process.

On average, only 25% of a brands’ buyers (purchasing new vehicles) visit the OEM site within 60 days prior to purchase (Oracle). That’s just the consumer base that purchases their brand. Imagine how many other in-market buyers of other brands they are missing out on. I wonder how much this percentage would increase by making it a point to direct consumers to a relevant experience on the OEM site at the end of each of their video/TV and radio spots.

I also wonder how many sales a brand loses when a consumer visits a third-party site to shop for one of their products, and ends up purchasing a competitor because of some information they were able to gather from their visit to that third-party site. Or, what information are these consumers missing out on altogether, that they would have been exposed to if the OEM had mentioned their own website during their TV/video & radio spots?

So I ask again, why are auto manufacturers so willing to allow third-party auto sites to shape and control the online car shopping experience? Is it that difficult to prominently place your OEM URL on the screen at the end of each commercial, instead of in small print at the bottom? Or better yet, why not create a unique online experience or unique online content, and make mention of this experience/content within TV/video and radio spots? Make the commercial about the shopping experience as well, not just the product. Ultimately you would be giving these consumers a relevant and valuable reason to visit your OEM site over a third-party site, removing the exposure to your competitors’ products these consumers are getting while visiting third-party sites.

The idea is simple, use other marketing channels to drive consumers to your website. Directing more consumers to your brand sites drives down visitation to third-party sites. If visits and pageviews are down on any given third-party site, the less ad space will be available for purchase, allowing that brand to buy 100% of its own retention ad space at a lower price. Conquest and awareness ad space may also be less expensive.

The way I see it, by using other channels in this manner, you are instantly making your TV, video, radio, and print advertising that much more valuable. Add that on top of the savings you will see in the third-party ad space. The key to it all is creating meaningful and relevant content on your site to direct people to. Again, make your commercial message not only about the product, but also the content on your website highlighting the product. If you can do that, you are creating a truly engaging experience that’s bigger than the product itself.

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Michael Thomas, Director of Analytics

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