Automotive brand management insights in a volatile, data-driven world

We provide six data, insights and market research tips to help automotive brands succeed in today’s data-driven world - even under new pressures that are impacting the auto industry.

Managing automotive brands in today’s data-driven world is no easy task. Events that have unfolded over the past three years have played a key role in producing data shifts all around the globe. You don’t need to have worked long in the insights world to know the level of impact this has on our on-going market research initiatives. So, what kinds of volatility are we talking about? 

Not only are pandemic and conflict-related supply chain issues continuing to impact the industry, there are huge governmental, societal, and environmental pressures on the industry too. Furthermore, rampant inflation and recalls are throwing even more layers of complexity to an industry already under pressure – even though some of these recalls can be fixed through software updates. 

The market will stabilize at some point, and when it does, those brands who stayed connected to their customers, adapted their business, and continued to invest in their insights function, will be better placed to grow. As you may well know, market research gives us the ability to make better decisions with whatever resources we have at our disposal. So, focusing your brand management and promotional efforts will be even more important in the months and years to come, and the right consumer insights can help you get there.  

1: Track your most important metrics together 

This may sound a little obvious for the initiated, but to ensure your brand is on the right path, it is important to not only track the measures but also to give anyone and everyone in your organization access to the reports. While marketing is ultimately accountable for brand health, there are many parts of the business that contribute to its status. If important metrics do start to drop, it will take the collective efforts of everyone to get them back to where they should be. Two (or more) heads are better than one in this scenario.  

2. Listen closely to consumer insights 

Consumer insight is fundamental to ensuring your company's automotive lines remain brand-driven and customer-focused. You can’t overestimate the importance of customer perception of your products; it's what drives your automotive brands' success. The world's best-known brands rely on these insights to transform their approach to category and product creation. Find out what your target audience, or potential targets, are doing, how they feel, and what they plan to do in the future. This data can drive better decisions and help you bring new vehicles to market successfully.  

Listening to consumers can also help your organization understand future shifts in society’s psyche. Electric vehicles may be today’s hottest trends, but this could change. There is some concern in the market about the mining of certain metals. Are these valid concerns? Are they held by the mainstream? Are they trending up or down in terms of concerns in consumer’s perceptions? It could be that EVs fall out of favor and hydrogen takes over. Brands that are listening to the market pick up on these subtle trend shifts and can build their business accordingly. 

3: Continually search for untapped markets 

While your core product lineup may have put you on the map, your customers might have an untapped need that your legacy products aren’t meeting. While it's important to pay attention to everyone who's in the market for a new vehicle, there will be some that aren't as targeted as others in your current marketing and product offering mix.  This untapped market could be a gold mine when you're thinking about new vehicle categories. While everyone else is “zigging,” the real innovative winners will be “zagging.” 

For instance, some brands may be hyper-focused on targeting Gen Z and Millennials - perhaps neglecting another potential audience, such as Boomers. In this scenario, there is potential for leadership if you can develop new products or even new categories that would appeal to senior generations and their attitudes toward transportation. Again - this is where customer insights are essential - use them to determine what would attract additional customers and create products that fit their profile. 

4. Continually search for new channels of communication 

There will always be new communication channels popping up, that’s a given. What’s also a given is that the communication channels that consumers are using today will not necessarily be used tomorrow. If brands are going to accurately track their performance, they need to be present in all of the places where consumers are seeking information to inform their purchase decisions – be it social media, traditional advertising, race team sponsorships or the huge number of other communication platforms available today.  

There was a recent example where a brand started seeing a downward on an important metric, and they didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until they undertook some additional market research that they discovered a new social media platform had popped up and their target market flocked to it in droves. One brand had already jumped on this channel and were aggressively taking market share. 

Automotive brand health may not be as sensitive to new communication channels as some other industries, but it is something to consider. 

5: Harness market research technology 

Digital transformation is on an upward trajectory, now more than ever. Technology is key to uncovering key consumer insights around the automotive industry. This means you need a solution that allows you to quickly and easily mine consumer data for those vital insights. Look for an integrated, cloud-based software platform, one that's purpose-built to simplify the processing, analyzing, visualizing, and sharing of market research data.  

6: Keep a close eye on start-ups as well as established players in the automotive industry 

When new companies launch, they often do so on the back of fresh research, their marketing strategies full of insights they've gleaned from careful analysis of automotive industry data. Often, they'll have created categories that are unique, and it's what makes them stand out. With these as inspiration, you can harness your customer data to point you in the direction of new automotive categories or unique products you might not otherwise have considered.  

On the other hand, there are also established players in the world who pivot into other industries. Take Apple as an example. They have long been touted to get into the automotive industry. Whether they’re intentionally doing this or just hiring automotive executives to help improve their mapping capabilities, it is an interesting angle to consider. Again, investigating customer data from an alternative viewpoint may also help you discover a new category or product. 

It is an exciting time to be in the market research and insights space, especially for those in the automotive industry, who are working for increasingly data-driven organizations. With the people, tools, and processes at your disposal, the impact you can make as an insights professional is almost unlimited. Yes, the ride may be a little bumpy for us all at the moment, but it’s a journey well worth making together.  

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