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For those of you who enjoyed the brief highlight reel we released in September on Google Think Auto, here’s the full review. Enjoy!

Google Think Auto 2017

In September, we were fortunate enough to attend this year’s edition of Think Auto at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The scenery of the event was different and so was the direction of the event. Instead of focusing on the four phases of the car buying journey, there was a ton of data presented on the the buyer’s persona. If you don’t remember what the four phases are, check out our 2016 recap of Think Auto for a good refresher.

First Presentation – Dave Resnick, Think Auto Research

Dave started the day off by presenting Think Auto’s research for the past year. It comes as no surprise that for 1 in 3 car buyers, the path to purchase is NOT linear. Dave’s presentation kicked off the theme for the event, talking about car buyers in terms of falling into one of three buckets, which are:

  1. First Time Buyer “The Newbie
  2. Brand Loyalist “The Loyalist
  3. Brand Switcher “The Switcher” (or the promiscuous as they like to call them)

The Newbies make up 20% of the Canadian car buyers market and they have some characteristics you would expect to see in this group. They are cost-conscious, with an average vehicle purchase spend of $30,000, and are looking for a fuel-efficient make and model. For the majority of this group, their decision to purchase a vehicle was triggered by some kind of life event – like moving, getting a new job or getting a pet. Since this group leverages digital the most, how do you stand out? Segment and target your messaging, engage them and be real.

The Loyalists make up 37% of the Canadian car buyer’s market, are older and typically less likely to have kids. Even though they were brand loyal, they still looked at 2 brands on average. This group also used fewer resources for their research with the dealership website being the primary place they looked. So how do you keep the loyalists coming back? Brand defense, exceptional service, and through an integrated CRM to reach key customers at the right time.

The Switchers make up 43% of Canadian drivers and have the mentality of ‘comparison’ shopping. They are typically in the market for 67 days, looking for SUVs or trucks and cross-shop up to 4 brands on average. This group has a lower reliance on family and friends and view the dealer as more of a facilitator as opposed to a trusted partner. How do you win the brand switchers? Give them a reason to switch, provide a seamless digital experience and give them the respect they’re looking for – respond to their requests!

Google Think Auto 2017

Second Presentation – Matt Growden, Cross Device

Although we live in a mobile-first era, Matt had some great points on what to look at and why we need to look deeper into the cross device experience.

  • 63% of Canadians consider mobile as their primary device
  • 75% use 4 or more devices
  • 9% of Canadians have 10 or more devices – I was shocked by this!
  • 53% of first time buyers used mobile
  • You still need a GREAT desktop and a GREAT mobile experience, you can’t focus on just one or the other
  • Site and page speed load times are still a huge factor (3 seconds or less)
  • You need to have a great cross device strategy

Matt gave a few great suggestions for who to look at as examples for having great cross device experiences: Netflix & Walmart. You can start watching a show or filling up your shopping cart and pick up right where you left off on another device. Why is this important? With how many times are all start, stop and return to an activity later, providing that seamless experience is going to help you win the deal!

Third Presentation – Tony Singh, Measurement

Tony brought some great insights as to why upper and lower funnel measurement is hard, especially between the tiers, and what can be done today to try and improve that.

His three points for why it’s challenging for upper funnel measurement were that clicks and impressions are not effective metrics in understanding impact on brand equity, industry standard research methodologies are not robust at the campaign level and getting results is slow.

Lower funnel measurements has it’s own challenges as well. Since cars can’t be fully purchased online, sales are not being properly attributed to the correct advertising medium. That coupled with inconsistent and inaccurate buyer data from the tier 3 level make it challenging to get a holistic view on every sale dealers are closing.

Suggestions for what OEM’s can do today to improve this are to focus on the KPI’s that drive business, look at overall brand lift, and drive dealer visits to let your sales people close the sale. Working with Google on this is the best place to start. Machine learning is real and is powering in-store visits. Over 3 million dealer visits YTD were driven by Google searches.

Fourth Presentation – Ashley Hahn, Video

From the topic of measurement, the day shifted to video and how you can move metal using the power of YouTube. Ashley Hahn, Brand Strategist with Google, chatted about her own car buying experience and gave us all some great tips on what to do to target the Newbies and Switchers who are more likely to go to YouTube for their research.

Go beyond the demographics and find the “deeper self” of your car buyers!

Newbies on YouTube

What’s great about the Newbies is that 65% of them turned to YouTube to research and there was a 48% year over year growth on auto review video (equals 480k hours watched on auto reviews).

Demographic Self
○ Typically 18-34 and more female
○ Likely to have kids
○ Have the lowest household income of all three buckets

Deeper Self
○ Are early adopters of technologies
○ Into health & fitness
○ Online shoppers

What are they watching while car shopping?
○ Expert reviews
○ Peer reviews

What else are they watching?
○ Unboxing videos
○ No gym workouts
○ Back to school

Switchers on YouTube

The Switchers, or the promiscuous, turned to YouTube 58% of the time for their research and to use it as their virtual test drive. They are mostly looking at on the road style reviews and full-on test drive videos.

Demographic Self
○ Typically aged 35+ and more male
○ Married
○ No children in the household
○ More likely to be new to Canada
○ Higher household income

Deeper Self
○ Avid travelers
○ Have pets
○ Auto Enthusiast
○ More likely to consider luxury brands

• What are they watching while car shopping?
○ On the road
○ Test drives

• What else are they watching?
○ GoPro travel
○ How to train a puppy
○ Is it worth the money

Fifth Presentation – Andrew Assad, The Dealer

As always, Andrew had a great presentation that was jam-packed with great stats from both dealers and car buyers and what we need to keep top of mind moving forward.  To keep things easy, here’s the Cole’s notes of what he uncovered.

  • 300 dealerships were surveyed
  • Average tenure in the dealership of those surveyed was 27 years and 85% were Dealer Principals
  • Common items “keeping dealers up at night”:
    • 53% worried about hiring
    • 45% worried about selling online
    • 43% worried about their digital advertising
  • The things keeping dealers up at night are also opportunities:
    • 52% selling cars online
    • 52% improving their digital advertising
    • 44% ways to connect with car buyers

Car buyers are telling Google that 65% of them are using digital to be more efficient and effective while researching for their next vehicle purchase. 80% of car buyers are also saying that ‘digital’ will reduce the number of dealership visits (dealers in the meantime are saying that digital reduce in-dealership visits by 97%). So if we all now know that car buyers are using digital to drive their dealership selection decision, and that they are visiting less dealerships than ever before, then why do we still see the majority of dealers only spending 9% of their advertising budget on it and still keeping 91% of that budget for traditional media?

Andrew mentioned that the main reason dealers are holding back on digital advertising are due to lack of education/knowledge, the overall cost, and not knowing who to work with (hint: find a great Premier Google Partner to work with like Strathcom!)

What else do we know about car buyers?

  • 54% WILL NOT contact the dealer before going there
  • 1 in 4 started their buying journey because of a dealer – you have the power to influence their decisions!
  • 3 in 4 rely on dealer research – ie. your website
  • 67% of searches lead to a dealer interaction (14% increase YoY in dealer related searches)
  • You have to WIN online to WIN the visit – only 2 dealerships on average are being visited (down from 3 last year!)

So now that you have plowed through my novel on Think Auto, here are the key points you can take away and implement:

  • Know your buyers and what they want to see from you!
  • This is old news – integrate video into your strategy!
  • Focus not only on demographic data but on the ‘deeper self’ data!
  • Dealership visits are down, you have to WIN online to WIN the visit!
  • Change, like always, is happening. Embrace it and try new things!

If you haven’t heard yet, Google is hosting Think Dealer events across the country. Three events are in the books already but you can still sign up for the event in Vancouver on November 7th and Calgary on November 9th here. We hope to see you there!

Event Recap, Google Think Auto

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