The car finance industry is a competitive one, and customers generally choose a provider based on their individual needs. Some buyers are looking for the latest technology and reliability, while others require budgeting options.
With this in mind, differentiating your car finance business from competitors is vital, so marketing efforts need to be approached with your particular customers in mind.
Throughout this article, you will see pivotal digital trends that car markets need to adopt in order to maintain visibility and provide customers with the right products in 2024.
Emerging car finance trends
Over the last 5 years, the car financing market has experienced noteworthy growth, accelerated by a change in attitude towards leasing vehicles as opposed to traditional ownership. Car leasing provides a range of advantages, such as cost savings, contract flexibility, and access to a wide range of vehicles.
Several trends in the car market are going to shape purchasing habits, including;
- Sustainability preferences
Government schemes are encouraging the use of electric vehicles (EVs) by increasing the number of charging points available across the country. They are also offering grants for EV drivers, landlords, local authorities, and businesses.
Consumers are also shifting towards purchasing electric and hybrid vehicles. A recent study shows two-thirds of drivers stating they want to go electric, with 9 in 10 who have switched revealing they would never go back to a fuelled vehicle.
- Rise of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS)
An increasing number of individuals are opting for car-sharing and subscription-based models over traditional ownership. This influential trend allows online users to plan, book and pay for their journeys, encompassing public transport, car rental, bike-sharing, etc.
The MaaS model aims to simplify travel, making it more integrated, safer and efficient.
- Commercial vehicle pledges
The commercial and electric van marketplace is exploding with companies looking to go carbon neutral. With a rise in general awareness around climate change, businesses are promising to reduce emissions and do their part for the environment.
Fuel costs are also contributing to a shift in commercial vehicle buying. There has been a strong EV transition, especially for electric buses as businesses look to cut costs in the long run.
- Desire for technological advancements
Many consumers are opting to choose a vehicle based on desirable technology above all else. Particularly the integration of telematics and connected car features, which contributes significantly to enhanced convenience and safety for customers.
Technology is pushing up the amount of money consumers are willing to spend, leading to a refreshing uplift in the car finance world.
- Heightened digitalisation
The industry is undergoing a substantial transformation with digitalisation. Such as online platforms and mobile applications play a pivotal role in simplifying the car finance process, allowing customers to effortlessly compare, book, and manage their finance and leasing agreements.
This digital shift has been gradually creeping up but is now really beginning to ramp and this is reflected in the industry’s commitment to providing customers with efficient and user-friendly financing experiences meaning fewer barriers to signing car finance deals.
With the above trends and advancements, a new era of possibilities and challenges awaits the digital marketing landscape. As consumer behaviours evolve and technological growth continues to reshape the way we engage with audiences, car finance companies now have an opportunity to take advantage of consumer buying behaviours and how those behaviours have made it easier to go from advertisement to purchase.
To make sure you capitalise on these emerging trends we’ve compiled a short list of digital marketing activities you could implement to ensure you don’t miss out.
6 digital marketing activities for car finance
1. Voice search: Adapting SEO for an audio-first world
As we transition into an audio-first world, the impact of voice search on SEO cannot be overstated. Adapting to the unique characteristics of voice searches, optimising for colloquial terms, securing featured snippets, prioritising local SEO, and ensuring mobile optimisation are fundamental steps for businesses aiming to maintain visibility.
Voice search is gaining significant traction, with estimates suggesting that by 2024, 50% of all searches will be initiated through voice. This trend is driven by the rapid increase of voice-activated devices like smart speakers, virtual assistants on smartphones, and other IoT devices. To remain relevant in an audio world, SEO strategies must adapt to the nuances of voice search. This involves optimising content for voice assistants, using conversational language queries, and incorporating longer-tail keywords.
The language users use when speaking into their devices is a key difference in voice search. Unlike typed searches that often consist of concise keywords, voice searches are more conversational and context-heavy. Getting content right for voice search involves understanding and incorporating conversational nuances. Long-tail keywords, question-based queries, and content that mirrors natural language patterns become essential for aligning with the way users articulate their voice searches. There is a huge opportunity here for those who adapt content for voice search over those companies that are slow to adopt and realise this change.
2. Conversational AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a futuristic concept but a transformative force in digital marketing. In 2024, the spotlight is on AI-powered marketing, with conversational marketing taking centre stage. The deployment of AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants enables real-time, personalised interactions with customers. Beyond just answering queries, these technologies guide purchasing decisions, provide personalised support, and foster deeper customer relationships. Car finance companies that harness the power of conversational marketing stand to create meaningful connections with their audience, enhancing the overall financing experience.
Conversational AI allows for real-time personalisation in marketing efforts. By analysing user data and understanding individual preferences, chatbots can tailor responses and product recommendations, creating a highly personalised experience for each user. This level of customisation not only enhances user satisfaction but also significantly influences purchasing decisions.
When leasing a vehicle it’s easy to become nervous or unsure about your decision and chatbots can assist users in product exploration, offer comparisons, and provide detailed information, mimicking the experience of interacting with a knowledgeable sales representative. This guidance fosters trust and confidence, converting potential customers into satisfied clients.
Instant support not only enables customers to obtain the information they need in real time but also removes the need for phone calls or emails. As a result, customer engagement and satisfaction levels can be significantly improved.
3. Integrating e-commerce and in-app shopping
E-commerce integration involves seamlessly connecting a brand’s online retail platform with various digital channels, including websites and social media. For the automotive industry, especially in car finance, this integration means that potential customers can explore, compare, and even initiate the finance process directly through the brand’s online presence.
Through e-commerce integration, car leasing companies can optimise their social media profiles, effectively transforming these platforms into virtual showrooms. This allows users to browse available vehicles, review leasing options, and gather essential information, all within the familiar and accessible environment of their preferred social channels.
Looking ahead, the trajectory of e-commerce integration and in-app shopping is poised for further innovation. Advances in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could revolutionise how users interact with vehicles online. Virtual test drives, interactive leasing simulations, and immersive experiences within apps may become integral components of the car financing customer journey.
4. Subscription-based models for buyers
The era of subscription-based models in the automotive industry is gaining momentum. Car finance companies can capitalise on this trend by offering flexible and all-inclusive subscription services. In 2024, consumers seek options that go beyond traditional financing, encompassing maintenance, insurance, and additional services within a single subscription package. Embracing this model not only caters to evolving consumer preferences for flexibility but also provides a competitive edge in a market hungry for innovative solutions.
Subscriptions typically tie consumers down into longer-term agreements that can roll over for many years guaranteeing high value per customer who is likely to spend more on this type of all-inclusive package simply for the convenience due to their already busy lifestyles.
5. AR and VR creating personalised experiences
AR and VR technologies are revolutionising the way brands interact with their audiences, offering immersive and personalised experiences. AR can enable customers to virtually sit in cars, visualise spaces, and interact with digital elements in the real world. VR can transport customers to virtual environments, allowing them to engage in interactive product demonstrations, training sessions, and even virtual events.
A great example of this is Volvo’s VR Test Drives, ‘customers can experience driving different Volvo models in various virtual environments, increasing brand awareness and test drive conversion rates.’
Car finance companies can take advantage of this opportunity by embedding purchase agreements and virtual contracts into the VR simulators allowing dealers to remove barriers to purchase whilst customers are being targeted at the point they are most likely to buy.
6. Sustainability and green leasing
As environmental concerns continue to influence consumer decisions, sustainability is a key marketing trend in 2024. Car finance companies can position themselves as advocates for green leasing by promoting electric and hybrid vehicles. Marketing strategies should highlight not just the economic benefits but also the positive environmental impact of choosing sustainable leasing options. Aligning with the values of an environmentally conscious consumer base not only contributes to a greener future but also broadens the appeal of car financing services.
Sustainability is becoming a driving force in consumer decision-making, and brands are recognising the importance of incorporating eco-conscious practices into their marketing strategies. This involves promoting sustainable products, reducing environmental impact, and communicating transparency about sustainability efforts.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said;
With vehicle supply challenges fading, the new car market is building back with the best year since the pandemic. Energised by fleet investment, particularly in the latest EVs, the challenge for 2024 is to deliver a green recovery. The government has challenged the UK automotive sector with the world’s boldest transition timeline and is investing to ensure we are a major maker of electric vehicles. It must now help all drivers buy into this future, with consumer incentives that will make the UK the leading European market for ZEVs.
As we navigate the digital marketing landscape in 2024, the road to success in the car financing industry is paved with innovation, adaptability, and a deep understanding of consumer dynamics. Embracing AI-powered marketing, integrating e-commerce functionalities, exploring subscription-based models, mapping the digital customer journey, promoting sustainability, adopting omnichannel marketing, crafting personalised content, and enhancing customer support with chatbots are the cornerstones of a successful digital marketing strategy.
Car finance companies that seize these key trends and strategies will not only stay relevant but position themselves as leaders in a competitive landscape.