Marketing in the Age of the Connected Car

Marketing in the Age of the Connected Car

Last month’s street racing blockbuster, The Fate of the Furious, clocked in the biggest worldwide debut weekend and amassed over $900 million worldwide. The success of the Fast and Furious franchise mirrors a wider trend within the automotive industry, with young consumers increasingly more interested in car ownership.

In 2013, The New York Times claimed that millennials would be ‘The End of Car Culture’. This was followed by reports and surveys telling us that young adults and teenagers are now more interested in saving for ‘electronics, recreation and travel’ than owning a new car.

While the recession did (unsurprisingly) impact sales of new cars among millennials, this was short-lived. In 2014, Generation Y accounted for 27% of new car sales in the U.S. — up from 18% in 2010. Now millennials are the fastest growing segment among vehicle buyers in the U.S., and are predicted to represent 40% of the new car market by 2020.

However, young consumers don’t necessarily have the exact same expectations as their parents’ generation. Among millennials, 33% prioritise advanced information and entertainment features over advanced safety features — compared to 13% for other age brackets. Technology and infotainment systems have become ‘must-haves’ for this new generation of car buyers.

The Future of In-Car Marketing

General Motors is often cited as being the first car brand to bring connected technology to the market. In the 1990s, they released OnStar, a telematics system that could call for roadside assistance directly from the vehicle. Since then, connected car technology has significantly advanced, with the likes of Audi, BMW, Tesla and Apple looking to establish themselves as dominant figures in this emerging market.

Highly advanced in-car technology will soon be the new normal, with Business Insider estimating that by 2021 over 380 million connected cars will be on the road.

As the technology inevitably advances — reaching the power of smartphones — there emerges new opportunities to connect with individuals. Brands were only previously able to reach drivers through mass-market advertising, like billboards and radio. However, this new form of technology will allow for hyper-targeting and personalised messages. 

General Motors have already demonstrated with their OnStar AtYourService platform how this technology can be used for location-based marketing. The feature allows retailers to send promotional message straight to a driver’s dashboard based on the location of their destination in their GPS. Magellan’s SmartGPS uses similar technology, however this device allows drivers to opt in to receive Yelp and Foursquare alerts from restaurants in close proximity.

To an extent, both of these devices are relatively soft approaches to in-car marketing. Currently the focus is on contextualising the message that drivers receive — roadside restaurants, petrol stations and car maintenance.

However, as the technology becomes integrated into our connected eco-systems of devices, new opportunities will arise for B2C brands and services to target drivers.

As Andy Gryc, Conference Director for the Connected Car Expo, explains; “The car is going to be a part of people’s connected lifestyles like the smartphone is today, a crucial tool for making life easier”.

Similar to the smartphone, the car is often a highly person device. Rather than merely being provided with a range of applications, drivers will want to customise their device to be tailored to their needs and interests. Through relevant branded apps, companies will be able to legitimately integrate themselves into the in-car experience. As new automotive technologies advance, marketing via in-car devices will move beyond simple messaging towards more dynamic content — for instance, video.

Final Say

Outside of connected car technology, autonomy is the other hot topic in the automotive industry.

While still in its infancy, autonomous technology looks set to significantly transform our understanding of ‘what driving is’. If fact, the impact of removing the individual from the act of driving will have drastic effects on the entire framework of our road system.

For marketers, this change will also impact how you can connect to individuals whilst they drive.

The result of removing the action of driving will result in creating moments of boredom when, as explained by science journalist Kristen Weir, people will need stimulation. In these moments, people often turn to technology for instant gratification.

Businesses will have the opportunity to use these moments to engage with a newly captive audience. This opportunity will also allow brands to go beyond push marketing tactics towards fluid two-way communications between themselves and individuals. As the technology continues to advance, marketers will be able to create multi-device campaigns, connecting between the smartphone, car and outdoor spaces — for instance, tethering to billboards.