Unlocking Experiential Automotive Marketing with AI & ML

4 Ways Automakers are Reinventing Digital Touchpoints

Today's automotive sector is evolving at multiple fronts: e-mobility, autonomous vehicles, newer vehicle ownership methods, and digital-enabled touchpoints – all of which are influencing automakers’ go-to-market strategies across the world. With digital channels becoming customers’ preferred means to find their next automobile [1], original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and dealerships are seeking new methods to ‘pop-up’ first at their customer’s point-of-search (PoS) by increasing discoverability and establishing online brand recall.

In this intensifying race to draw in customer attention, what’s also speeding up is the implementation of analytics-enabled tools, which are helping marketers deploy personalized marketing initiatives. Here are 4 ways automakers and dealerships can reinvent their marketing strategy to shape experience-focused interactions with their customers:

1. Building Scalability with Mobile-Friendly Websites

2. Driving Engagement with Synthetic Media

3. Staying Ahead with Customer Experience Mapping

4. Incentivizing Showroom Visits with AR & VR Tech

1. Building Scalability with Mobile-Friendly Websites

A Think with Google study shows that 60% of all vehicle searches are performed on mobile devices [2]. Further, 63% of car buyers run mobile searches while at a dealership [3]. Most customers, however, feel flustered by the barrage of information they receive [4], and this is precisely where auto brands have the opportunity to optimize their content for mobiles and other devices.

Beyond finetuning landing pages for display and performance on mobile, brands must leverage customer data platforms (CDPs) to tap into user data via web analytics. CDPs help score a prospect’s propensity to buy and optimize its odds – tapping into varied first- and third-party user data; analyzing customers’ search behaviour, preferences, and demographics; and recommending next-best actions. Further, with AI-enabled recommendation systems integrated with CDP tools, search results can be personalized further for customers. Brands can leverage this to show relevant vehicle results and recommendations, deliver localized content driven by location awareness, and achieve targeted ad optimization through optimal mobile views. Not only does mobile optimization result in improved user experiences but also enhances visibility, allowing brands to effectively engage with current and potential customers, creating additional leads.

2. Driving Engagement with Synthetic Media

Last year, a synthesized AI-powered Avatar, or simply, a robot, sold one of its own digital artworks in the form of a nonfungible token (NFT) for nearly $700,000 [5], introducing a whole new chapter in the marketing primer. With the ‘digital-asset’ trend making waves, AI-generated videos and artworks are fast proliferating across the web, giving way to synthetic media. Although there is a flipside to this revolution – for instance, deepfakes surfacing on the internet – the responsible use of generative media can allow marketers to cut through the competition, engaging their audiences in newer ways. To achieve this level of targeted engagement, auto marketers need to make sure their synthetic content is ethical, authentic, and free of any grey elements. Here, the imperative is to improve the quality of training data and simplify the underlying algorithms used to train these systems, while ensuring some form of human supervision is in place, so complete creative control is not handed over to AI.

Also, since this is an entirely computer-generated form of media, content output can be quite high. In an automotive context, where vehicles are positioned in the market based on concepts such as thrill, luxury, tech-savviness, and eco-friendliness, leveraging synthetic media can enable auto brands to produce varied forms of content that resonate with different customer segments, creating personalized engagement. Additionally, synthetic media content is also highly shareable – take for instance a 2019 AI-generated malaria awareness ad which collected almost 800 million impressions [6] – making it a cost-effective yet far-reaching marketing tool.

3. Staying Ahead with Customer Experience Mapping

Across industries, spending on customer experience tools is set to cross $640 billion by 2022 [7]. Naturally, CX has gained unprecedented levels of importance in the automotive space as well. With the car buying process becoming increasingly omnichannel, brands need to effectively map CX to better understand how interactions at different touchpoints influence customers.

Integrated knowledge management [8] and context-aware workflows [9] are examples of tools that connect OEMs' back-end systems to map customers’ journeys, from dealer network access through vehicle bookings and delivery. Brands can also leverage predictive analytics by implementing propensity models, tracking customer sentiment, and mapping customer patterns across channels to identify and resolve any issues before customers reach out to them.

Consider, for instance, that a vehicle owner is looking for a service centre to make an appointment for a particular model’s repair. Here, OEMs leveraging predictive tools can unlock search patterns, giving them key leads about the user’s location, budget, and potential requirements. These insights can be then leveraged to alert a nearby centre to proactively reach out to the prospect with personalized services that best match their needs, while also highlighting the centres with the right inventory to carry out the servicing request. In this way, a CX-mapped marketing strategy allows for both seamless website-to-showroom transitions and ensures customer interactions are managed more efficiently and effectively.

4. Incentivizing Showroom Visits with AR & VR Tech

In 2021, the automotive Augmented/Virtual Reality market witnessed an YoY growth of 10.63% [10], signalling that these technologies are fast becoming the norm in the auto industry, at different levels. For instance, the use of 3D models to provide customers with in-depth vehicle information is just one way in which marketers can utilize immersive technologies to enhance customer experience. Taking AR-enhanced 3D rendering to another level, a global South Korean OEM built an immersive car manual for one of their models to allow customers an in-and-out vehicle experience [11]. What’s more, AR can be integrated at the dealership’s end too, where online touchpoints such as socials, websites, ads, blogs, and websites can act as launchpads generating in-the-moment engagements.

Besides AR, VR too has come to be central to auto manufacturers’ strategy with its market expected to reach a remarkable $14.7 billion by 2027 [12]. Leveraging VR, brands can invite attention with virtual vehicle tours, showroom walkthroughs, and immersive POV test drives. Another application unique to VR is that it enables customers to personalize vehicles, allowing them to configure vehicles with different colours, features, and accessories, and then visualise how the vehicle will look in real time. Besides offering individualized engagement, VR-enhanced personalization is also a highly cost-effective means to market.

Future-first Marketing for Tomorrow’s Automobiles

The automotive industry today might well be at the heart of a perfect storm. While customer footfall at dealerships has reduced, the number of digital touchpoints have grown to about 24 in total [13]. For auto brands, each touchpoint serves as a channel to interact with their customers and prospects and engage them with content forms unique to each of them. Here, the imperative is for both OEMs and dealerships to carve out an effective digital marketing strategy aligned with common goals and appealing to their end customers. But achieving this would have to be underpinned by the right mix of analytical support that brands can leverage by assessing their business requirements, scale of operation, and resources. With all these elements in place, auto marketers can pursue a highly effective marketing strategy to achieve high contact volumes across channels, boosting both customer loyalty and confidence.


[1] https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/consumer-car-buying-process-reveals-auto-marketing-opportunities/

[2] https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/search/auto-digital-retail-trends-mobile-search-dealerships/

[3] https://manningmediainc.com/how-auto-buyers-use-mobile-on-their-path-to-purchase/

[4] https://en-gb.facebook.com/business/news/insights/the-road-to-purchase-in-a-mobile-first-world

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/arts/sophia-robot-nft.html

[6] https://www.facebook.com/business/news/insights/synthetic-media-signals-a-new-chapter-for-influencer-marketing

[7] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190806005070/en/Spending-on-Customer-Experience-Technologies-Will-Reach-641-Billion-in-2022-According-to-New-IDC-Spending-Guide#:~:text=Spending%20on%20Customer%20Experience%20Technologies,IDC%20Spending%20Guide%20%7C%20Business%20Wire

[8] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/10/21/knowledge-management-for-customer-experience-challenges-and-best-practices-in-2021/?sh=6579d9a066c0

[9] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301602296_Context_Aware_Customer_Experience_Management_A_Development_Framework_Based_on_Ontologies_and_Computational_Intelligence

[10] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/automotive-augmented-reality-and-virtual-reality-market-to-witness--5-10-billion-growth-during-2021-2025--technavio-301296737.html

[11] https://www.forbes.com/sites/lianeyvkoff/2015/12/09/hyundai-builds-a-better-car-manual-using-augmented-reality/?sh=744a79e95ec1

[12] https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/virtual-reality-vr-in-automotive-market-101702

[13] https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/03/23/how-the-pandemic-has-changed-car-buying-forever