Eleven key automotive buyer and vehicle service consumer trends to watch in 2011 include acts of kindness from dealerships and car companies, the developed world launching products for emerging economies, and online status symbols, according to research recently released by consumer insights firm trendwatching.com.
The Following is a brief overview of each of the 11 automotive consumer trends which trendwatching.com predicts will have a global impact on auto industry marketers in 2011. These 11 auto industry impact trends are based on their most recent research and analysis of automotive consumer reported polls and surveys.
1) Random acts of kindness
Consumers’ cravings for realness, for the human touch, ensure that everything from Car Companies and Dealerships randomly picking up the tab at Starbucks to sending a surprise gift will be one of the most effective ways to connect with (potential) vehicle buyers and automotive service consumers in 2011, especially beleaguered automotive consumers in North America, Europe and Japan.
trendwatching.com advises that the rapid spread of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook among consumers gives brands previously unavailable insight into their moods, wants and locations, and also provides a new direct channel to deliver seemingly random acts of kindness that are actually targeted to a dealer's or car company's best prospects based on their online activities.
Urbanization remains one of the absolute mega trends for the coming decade, with about the global population currently living in urban areas. Urban consumers tend to be more daring, more liberal, more tolerant, more experienced, more prone to trying out new vehicle brands, models and alternative vehicle ownership services. In emerging markets, these effects tend to be even more pronounced, with new arrivals finding themselves distanced from traditional social and familial structures, while constantly exposed to a wider range of transportation and vehicle ownership or access alternatives.
3) Pricing Pandemonium
Mobile devices and social networks allow car shoppers and vehicle service consumers to constantly receive targeted offers and discounts based on their vehicle's actual mileage and their online activities, even while physically visiting a dealership... Including offers from a rival dealer or vehicle manufacturer, as well as being able to join online communities, or vehicle usage interest groups based on mutual ownership of a specific vehicle make or type of vehicle. Car Companies should target vehicle owners and car shopping consumers with offers and features such as instant mobile coupons and discounts, online group discounts, flash sales, and dynamic pricing based on real-time supply and demand.
4) Made for China/India and Emerging Economies
In 2011 and going into 2012, expect to see an increasing number of American and European Car Companies to launch new vehicles or even new makes/models dedicated to consumers in emerging markets. Growth in consumer spending in emerging markets far outpaces consumer spending in developed markets, and Western Car Companies are favored more than local brands in emerging markets. Western brands including Buick, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and BMW have already capitalized on this trend. Witness the new Buick Regal and Buick LaCrosse for Chinese influenced designed and features being emphasized, such as a roomier back seat based on Chinese vehicle owners proclivity for hiring personal drivers.
5) Online Status Symbols
In 2011, trendwatching.com recommends that car companies and dealers supply customers with any kind of symbol, virtual or ‘real world,’ that helps them display to peers their online contributions, interestingness, creations or popularity. This includes personalized social networking memorabilia as well as location-based games and contests which award virtual or real-world prizes. Dealers awarding LinkedIn profile badges to vehicle owners who have surpassed 100,000 miles is an example of extending the old-school European OEM practice of vehicle grill badges to the online world of social media based membership sites.
Growing numbers of automotive consumers will expect transportation related products and services in 2011 to prevent misery, and improve their own quality of life, rather than merely providing transportation between points A and B... Vehicle features and dealership amenities such as built-in mobile body function and health monitoring devices, as well as in-vehicle health apps connected to web based health and fitness related social networks, will serve the multichannel wellness needs of automotive consumers who consider their vehicle purchases to be an extension of their lifestyle. Look at Subaru's sponsorship of Skiing, Kia's connection with basketball and Audi's connection with Pro Tennis for possible indicators of this trend.
7) ‘Twin-sumers’ and ‘Social-lites’
Both of these types of online automotive internet users (AIU) identified by trendwatching.com are critical to spreading positive word-of-mouth about vehicles and dealers, as well as personal experience based dealership recommendations.
Twin-sumers are consumers with similar consumer patterns, likes and dislikes, and who are hence valuable sources for recommendations on what vehicles to buy, where to buy them and the dealership experience, while social-lites are consumers who consistently broadcast information about cars, trucks and SUV's, as well as their experience at dealerships to a wide range of associates online.
8) Emerging Dealer and Car Company Generosity
This trend is about brands and wealthy individuals from emerging markets (especially China and India) who will increasingly be expected to give, donate, care and sympathize, as opposed to just sell and take. And not just in their home countries, but on a global scale. It’s a profound cultural change and a consumer demand that their counterparts in mature markets have had a few years to getting used to. Recent lifestyle and "Cause Marketing" campaigns from luxury auto makers and Ford Motor Company's "Race for the Cure" campaigns are examples of this trend in action.
9) Planned Spontaneity
With lifestyles having become fragmented, with dense urban environments offering automotive consumers any number of instantly available transportation options, and with cell /smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making (or sticking to) rigid activity plans, 2011 will see the emergence of what trendwatching.com calls full-on “planned spontaneity.” Car Companies can expect to see consumers in 2011 rushing to sign up for vehicle and transportation services (the planned part) that allow for endless and almost effortless travel to mass mingling with friends, family, colleagues or strangers (the spontaneity part).
A developing segment of this trend is consumers signing up for mobile services that passively and constantly broadcast their location. One only need to look at Ford Motor Company's latest innovations that extend their in-vehicle SYNC digital system franchise from Microsoft to see this trend in connecting consumers using their vehicles with the web and social networks in action.
When it comes to ‘green consumption’, car companies should expect a rise in “eco-superior” vehicles and alternative products; products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to conventionally polluting internal combustion powered vehicles in every possible way. Trendwatching.com says car companies should think of a combination of eco-friendly yet superior functionality, superior design, and/or superior total cost of ownership (TCO) savings.
Fractional ownership (think ZipCar) and lifestyle leasing business models have re-emerged, with services such as car-sharing and public vehicle pool programs enjoying success around the globe. For many consumers, access to a car, SUV or truck when needed is more convenient and affordable than full time vehicle ownership via conventional automotive financing or vehicle leasing.
Fast Growing Emerging Economies Such as China and India May Provide Automotive Consumer Innovations
The fastest growing emerging economies are an increasingly important source of automotive sales and service consumer innovations, according to earlier findings from trendwatching.com. The research firm cites a number of statistics to support its premise that emerging economies are becoming a major source of auto industry innovations that will have a global impact.
For example, these economies have accounted for nearly 70% of world growth in auto sales during the last five years, accounted for 34% of global GDP in 2010 and will account for 39% in 2015... And, it is predicted that these emerging growth economies will account for two-thirds of world trade in 2050.
In addition, trendwatching.com says emerging economies such as China, India and South America contain a growing middle class of 2 billion people who spend $6.9 trillion USD annually. That figure is expected to rise to $20 trillion by 2050.