Last Updated: July 4, 2019 8:13AM
As the steep slope of the auto industry’s post-recession growth trajectory begins to flatten, we see an increase in doom-and-gloom predictions for auto manufacturers. But the auto market isn’t disappearing; it’s simply shifting—and this gives companies new opportunities to stand out in a crowded field.
Changing regulations, increased customer reliance on web research, demand for connected cars, growth in emerging markets. These all represent areas where innovative vehicle producers can improve their bottom lines.
That flexibility will be key to success in today’s auto world. As communication enablers, Language Service Providers (LSPs) can be powerful allies during industry changes. Global presence and established expertise can provide OEMs with the missing pieces to support market shifts.
Here are some trends we’re seeing in the auto industry. Plus, we share our thoughts on how LSPs and auto manufacturers can work together in today’s environment.
Market Maturation and Movement
Traditionally strong auto-consuming markets, including the US and Japan, are approaching saturation. Market maturity in these global players means Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have seen decreasing growth in previously high-value geographies. Both BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and RoW (Rest of World, excluding Japan, South Korea, North America and Europe) countries may soon overcome these gaps. According to a recent McKinsey study, these two emerging markets will comprise two-thirds of the total automotive profit by 2020.
These emerging markets also represent an opportunity for smaller cars that might be considered “starter” cars in the US. McKinsey notes that “smaller vehicle classes are growing more strongly than others, particularly in fast-growing emerging markets.” Meanwhile, in North America, high-value pickups and SUVs continue to gain ground within the slower-growing prospect base, indicating a refactoring of production.
Want to grow? Speak your customer’s language
OEMs seeking growth need to be ready to communicate their value to an increasing number of buyers who speak languages other than the company’s original language of business. Savvy manufacturers will seize the tremendous opportunity to leverage localization to capture customers in various cultural niches.
Ensuring prospective customers can interact with basic content in their native languages is a start. Then, altering content, tone, or style according to the target region can take vehicle sellers even further. For example, great gas mileage and a hardy chassis are more important factors for buyers in rural areas with long commutes on infrequently maintained roads. In tightly packed cities, maneuverability and anti-theft systems may be more desirable. Successful OEMs will modify their messaging to demonstrate how they can solve individual buyers’ specific problems.
Thoughtful localization and strategic personalization can modify the car-buying experience and push customers along the path to purchase. Fortunately, a growing preference among buyers for online research helps disseminate localized, targeted content more simply.
More and more, potential vehicle buyers are interacting with sellers with their research already in hand. According to Google, a whopping 95% of vehicle buyers start their process with online research—and a J.D. Power & Associates survey shows that 16% of buyers even skip the test-drive. Increased web traffic means online sales may provide a promising revenue stream, particularly in areas where opening a brick and mortar location would offer limited returns. Even in areas where a physical location is feasible, they simply aren’t as effective as they used to be: today’s buyers visit only one or two dealerships, down from five or six.
New opportunities for digital marketing
While these changes reduce the potential impact of powerful in-person salesmanship, the shift also opens the door for aggressive content marketing. Companies that share details about their models and organizations can claim more pre-purchase interaction time. A business that demonstrates expertise in its customers’ interests via traditional text and emerging voice search could be rewarded with more leads and increased sales.
Educated buyers offer car companies another perk: they equate to a warm lead, as they have already been convinced of a brand’s merit by the time they initiate in-person contact. (Google’s research indicates 41 percent of brand loyalists have already decided on their purchase before they begin their research.)
And of course, web content also has the benefit of being relatively easy to translate, especially for auto companies working with an LSP with industry expertise.
& Feature Fever
Armed with abundant online information following their research, prospects are increasingly interested in customizing their vehicles in myriad ways. Increasing modularity allows more precise personalization—a driving factor in purchases.
Some personalization options are obvious—color, interior fabric, manual or automatic transmission—but others, such as software that responds to the operator’s needs, can really change the game. A business owner worried about speeding fleet drivers can cap vehicle speeds. A safety-obsessed parent can allow the car to turn on only when all passengers have buckled their seat belts. The list goes on.
The connected car also offers opportunities for service add-ons and paid upgrades, extending the profitability life cycle. Every technology improvement also provides an opportunity to differentiate a brand. Through partnerships and software development, companies can carve a specialty niche. And standing out in a saturated market continues to be an excellent way to gain both customers and their loyalty.
These market changes can be unnerving for anyone in the auto manufacturing world, but they also represent incredible opportunity. Partnering with agile marketing and localization experts can take the burden off OEMs and their teams—and allow them to drive forward.