An offline study conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Google India highlights how internet is increasingly influencing Indian car buyers' decisions. The study conducted among 2791 respondents in eight metros over a period of two months (Jan-Feb 2012) showed that 50 per cent of them searched online before making their purchase. Out of these, 54 per cent changed their brand consideration set after online research, according to the study.
The research also showed that 72 per cent of the respondents trust OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer - or car makers) websites for relevant information and 48 per cent consider YouTube as an important source of information before zeroing on the car they'll finally buy. (OEMs covered by this research were Maruti, Tata Motors, Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Honda and Volkswagen).
In addition to this, Google's internal data suggests that the auto vertical has been one of the fastest growing search verticals on Google with a 70 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) growth in 2011. The data also shows that there's been a 125 per cent y-o-y growth of auto queries on mobile phones. This number has grown twice as fast on smartphones (242 per cent).
On the eve of the release of the report, Rajan Anandan, vice president and managing director, Google India, said, "Though quite a few car makers have started embracing web infrastructure, their media mix needs to change to incorporate more ad spend on digital. These numbers clearly indicate that the value chain for car manufacturers has to be digitised."
Anandan added that the digital spends for car makers has gone up by 100 per cent yoy in the last one year itself and the amount of money allocated to digital is only going to shoot up from this point.
So are the car makers moving their spends towards digital? It is definitely an area of focus, and has seen major activity, acknowledge players.
Nigel Wark, executive director, marketing, sales and services, Ford India, said, "We have a dedicated team that handles our website and makes significant changes on the website on a monthly basis. In the last one year, we have tried to simplify our website so that people get a chance to go through a simple journey, get to know about our product and get a direct link to conversations that buyers may have had after purchasing that particular product."
Kamal Basu, marketing head, Skoda Auto, said, "India and Brazil are two such markets where online provides a significant level of engagement with existing and potential consumers. We have made a strategic shift on our website and moved from the brochure format to a videos format thereby providing engaging content to the user. The number of unique visits have doubled in the first quarter of this year corresponding to the first quarter of last year."
Basu added that Skoda's YouTube channel's page views have gone up by five times in the last one year. Besides advertisements going live on the YouTube channel before it goes on air (TV), YouTube allows the marketing team to showcase elements like the trailers and making of the advert.