Is social media missing the mark?

The new car buying consumer

Hands up if you own a new car? Just to put some context around this, I’m talking a new car in the last 3 years registered to you through your own funding or any type of lease/finance package. If the answer’s yes, the chances are you’re a fifty something year old!

Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years looking at brand customer data and the older age profile of new car buyers is something that’s consistent across brands. Of course, there are exceptions, certain models or certain markets attracting a younger customer. But in most circumstances, look at your buyers and the majority of them will be in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

There have been various studies looking at demographics and in the most part trends are slow to change. In Europe the average is 52 and looking at some major markets, in the UK it’s 54 and 52 in both Germany and the US.

This is largely because with age comes wealth and the ability to afford a car. There are of course lifestyle factors in the mix as well such as the transition from singledom into family life and the move from inner city to suburban and even country residences. Whatever way you look at it, age and the change that comes with age is a huge factor for new car sales.

Source: EuropeGermanyUKUSA

For marketeers, the importance of how we target customers is drilled into us from a young age. Creative marketing is always going to be aspirational, which is why we rarely see fifty somethings going about their day-to-day business in car advertisements. However, it is critical that we use relevant media channels to serve the best possible content to our target audiences.

Are social media audiences new car buyers?

It’s well known that the older age groups are less engaged with social media. The research below by Spredfast shows that a third of global population use social media, which is significant as a targetable market. However, for all of the networks it is the younger age groups that are more engaged and I would expect for the older age groups that frequency of use would reduce at a weekly or daily level, which is relevant when trying to target someone when they are in a window of car buying research. Older age groups are also more likely to use social media in a lighter way, for example, dipping in briefly to keep up with family and friends, rather than the intense engagement that the younger age groups have.

37% of world population, 2.8 billion people, use social media. For the key networks, this breaks down as follows:Source: Spredfast

Global age profiles sit at 24% aged 20-29 and more than half are aged 40+. Therefore, more than half of the core car buying demographic are less engaged with social media. Use does vary from country to country, but it’s still significant to consider.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Use your media to go direct

For automotive marketeers, social media is a wonderful way of being able to engage customers and potential customers. Brand social accounts are full of an engaging mix of brand, partner, review and user generated content. And for good reason, it works! Social media marketing builds brand authenticity leading ultimately to growth in sales and customer retention.

But, if so much of your car buying market isn’t that engaged with social media, why not serve more authentic content where you can engage with them. Think With Google research shows that when researching a new car purchase online, 51% of digital touchpoints are on the brand or retail partner digital media channels. These are channels that the brand has control over and can use to provide relevant, authentic consumer content. There’s already a good amount of product information on brand websites for example, but in many instances, not nearly enough content that enables a person to feel, through the eyes of many others, what it is like to own one of the cars.

There are many reasons why this is difficult to do. Accessing enough relevant content at scale can be expensive. Introducing a blend of brand and non-brand content into owned digital media may require a culture shift. Current systems may be cumbersome to update with such dynamic content. Whatever the challenges may be, there is fantastic value to be had from better engaging with such a sizable customer market and a determined marketeer must work to overcome them. There are agile systems out there that will blend easily with your technology stack and enable you to take charge of authentic content on your owned media!