Digital has helped to alter the automotive sector in a variety of ways, from the emergence of virtual showrooms to the growth of well-informed customers. Our dependence is only expected to grow in the years to come though.

An all-time high for the number of new cars sold across the UK was reached in 2016. According to figures from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 2.69 million cars were registered — up two per cent on 2015's performance. Although largely attributed to fleets, private car sales still remain historically high at 1.2 million.

8.2 million used cars were sold throughout the UK during 2016 — an increase of 7.3 per cent when compared to 2015's figures. The largest proportion of these sales (14.9 per cent) took place in the South East, with 10.4 per cent in the North West and 9.8 per cent in the East.

Another emerging trend is the increased demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles across the UK as well. While petrol- and diesel-powered cars still dominate the market, we witnessed a 41.9 per cent growth in plugin hybrids and a 25.1 per cent uplift in petrol-electric hybrids.

mercedes 1 (PD)

When it comes to consistent growth of both new and used car sales, the aftermath of the recession must be largely credited to the increasing figures. With a wealth of buyers now in the market, brands need to do all they can to capture their interest and secure a sale — and this means embracing digital.

This already appears to be the case, with an Accenture survey of 10,000 respondents finding that 75 per cent would like to complete an entire car-buying process using online means if they had the service available for them to do so. Although manufacturers like BMW and Hyundai offer this service, a fully digital car-buying process is still relatively new. However, buyers still rely on digital when completing a purchase in person.

This is evident when you consider that 97 per cent of new car buyers say that they thoroughly research their buying options and vehicles available before they even make a trip to a car dealership. For 59 per cent of potential buyers, this research takes eight hours, while 39 per cent spend over four months researching.

A typical car buyer will also have 900 digital interactions over three months ahead of them committing to either buying or leasing a vehicle, if data from Luth Research is to be believed. These interactions are categorised as searches, visits, video views and clicks and can be broken down as:

• 139 Google searches

• 14 YouTube videos

• 89 images

• 69 dealer interactions

• 186 manufacturer interactions

It's clear then that a strong digital presence is required by those in the automotive industry. Download the Mediaworks Automotive Industry Digital Marketing Review White Paper  by digital agency Mediaworks to see if your website is performing the best it could and get ideas on creating forward-thinking digital strategies.

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