How to help car buyers make the switch to electric

With the earth warming at an unprecedented rate, climate change has leapt into the headlines and prompted governments all over the world to take aggressive action by setting net-zero C02 emission targets. One of the key changes in policy is the move away from the combustion engine to electric-powered vehicles.  The change is radical and happening quickly, but are car buyers ready to make the shift?

The Future is Electric

With road transport accounting for 21% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide (C02)* the car industry is being targeted to dramatically reduce its impact. One of Boris Johnson’s “green industrial revolution” points focuses on the phasing out of sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Since then we have seen major car brands including Jaguar, Bentley and Volvo Cars stepping up to the challenge by committing to producing only fully electric vehicles (FEV’s) by 2030. Over the last 12 months, the number of plug-in hybrid and fully electric models available has leapt from 62 to 83, with many more scheduled for launch in the coming months**. It has become clear that the future of cars is electric.

Are Consumers Ready?

But with all this change happening on the manufacturer side, EVs still only made up 6.6% of total car sales in 2020***. So what are the barriers that are stopping people from buying an EV and what can auto brands do to support consumers in this big transition from petrol and diesel to electric?

A SMMT survey by Savanta ComRes confirms keen interest from consumers in this technology with drivers most attracted to the lower running costs (41%) and chance to improve the environment (29%). However potential buyers still have concerns over how a EV will fit into their lifestyle with aspects such as range anxiety (38%) and a lack of local charging points (44%) putting people off from taking the plunge.

Another study conducted by Facebook in Jan 2020**** involved interviewing 2 groups of people. Group 1, people considering buying an EV, and group 2 people who own an EV. The people considering buying an EV highlighted some of the same anxieties that we see in the SMMT survey, range/infrastructure anxiety, and also added performance concerns (are they buying an inferior car). What’s interesting is the feedback from group 2, the EV owners, actually counteract the concerns the considerers have. EVs exceed expectations in terms of the drive experience and this group also highlighted the long-term money savings of owning an EV.

So in order for brands to support potential buyers and overcome their anxieties they need to look to authentic and trusted content sources to address the key challenges.

How can you help consumers make the change?  Build trust.

Automotive marketing has long focused on the performance and associated lifestyle owning a car affords.  Whether it’s driving down Route 66 in a convertible Mustang or weaving in and out of Parisian streets in a Clio, the focus has been much more on the brand and doing what has always worked.

However, the way people buy cars is changing, particularly online.  Car buyers can no longer easily pop into their local showroom or chat to neighbors and perhaps more importantly consumers want to buy from authentic brands that they trust and that they feel have beliefs aligned with their own.

This where the importance of building consumer trust comes in.  If you are to convince people to move from what they know to electric, you need to help them believe and trust in this new technology.  As a result we are seeing a completely new approach to traditional car marketing, an approach that focuses on trusted and real content to emotionally connect with new customers.  Here we look at some of the tactics being taken:

User-Generated Content: People trust real content from real people.

Existing Owners of EVs wield a HUGE influence on people who may be considering buying an EV. They can:

  • Provide a trusted overview of the experience of the car, highlighting the benefits
  • Show how an EV will fit into someones lifestyle
  • Normalise ownership – “if they make it work then so can I”
  • Help to ease the anxieties that considerers have such as range and charging infrastructure anxiety

The challenge that brands face is that not everyone considering buying an EV will know someone that has one in order to speak to them and be positively influenced by their choice. This is where authentic UGC plays a critical role. If brands can capture the positive experience that EV owners are having and highlight this in the online purchase journey, it will support considerers in their decision-making process, normalising ownership and helping to overcome the anxieties they may have about buying an EV.

Where can you find UGC?

The majority of UGC can be found on social media platforms. Instagram tends to be the most popular place for image-heavy sharing with happy customers often mentioning the brand when they create and post their content.

Another way brands can find authentic user generated content is by directly asking for it. Referred to as 1st Party UGC, the brand will reach out to customers and ask them to create content around a specific theme, for example, asking new EV owners to share their experience.

An important rule for a brand using UGC is to make sure that they ask the content creator and owner for permission to use their content. This applies no matter how the brand obtains this content and is important both from a matter of trust and building good relationships with customers, and also ensuring compliance with regulations such as GDPR. Gaining the rights to use this content is time consuming and complex, however there are Content Curation Platforms like StoryStream that are used by brands to automate and document these processes. This ensures GDPR compliance and also makes sure marketing teams are freed up to concentrate on what really matters – celebrating customers and their positive stories!

3rd Party Editorial Content (e.g. reviews, articles)

Content being independently created by editorial companies can provide impartial and trusted advice to people looking to transition to an EV. For example, I recently read an article about a journalist who drove a Porsche Taycan Turbo from Atlanta, Georgia to Daytona Beach, Florida, a 450-mile road trip. The honest overview of the trip gave me incredible insight into how the Taycan Turbo tackles longer distances, a great way for a brand to ease range anxiety for people considering buying one. The challenge for brands is that this content often sits across multiple different platforms online so they can’t ensure EV considerers are reading it.

Innovative Brand Examples

Porsche

We can see examples of innovative brands already starting to weave this content into their online purchase journey. For example Porsche with the release of their highly anticipated Taycan, is using a mix of brand, user-generated and 3rd party content on the Taycan model page to support EV considerers.

 

Volvo Car UK

Volvo Car UK has a dedicated space on their website for electrification, and are surfacing all of the latest positive reviews of the XC40 Recharge and other hybrid models, alongside brand social and UGC.

 

Author

This article was written by Clover Kennard, who works across the Automotive sector with leading brands helping them to engage customers using trusted UGC content powered by StoryStream.

About StoryStream for Automotive Brands

StoryStream is a content curation platform that specialises in helping automotive brands to harness user-generated and 3rd party content and deliver it across the online customer journey. The result is increased engagement at every step, while creating a more trusted and real customer experience. To find out more please take a look at our website https://storystream.ai/online-automotive/ or get in touch hello@storystream.ai.

* Office for National Statistics report 

**SMMT MVRIS data

***SMMT data, total car registrations for 2020

****Facebook lets grow electric study Jan 2020, available to download here

Photo Credit: by Martin Katler and Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash