Sophus3 Forum Shows Future of Auto Brand Marketing

The 2017 Sophus3 Digital Automotive Market Forum, held in London at the end of February, proved to be a huge success with more than 150 participants from 25 different auto brands including Ford, Mercedes, Honda, BMW and Audi attending what has now become a key annual event in the auto brands calendar.


Founded in 2001, Sophus3 have been hosting a forum since 2002, helping manufacturers gain more value from their digital marketing and communication activities. Providing benchmarking and vital analytic solutions for their clients, Sophus3 enjoy an almost peerless role within the auto brand industry, using expertise and insight backed by tracking data and statistical analysis.


Arguably, the 2017 forum proved the be the most informative yet, with guest speakers from all over the UK and Europe attending to provide presentations on a variety of topics.


This year’s key messages will resonate through the industry as auto brands battle to keep pace with the latest marketing and digital innovations.


The day began with Paul Rutishauser Editor, Auto Market Intelligence and his in-depth look at car brand websites, social media activity and latest market trends.


Said Rutishauser: “In summary the current tide of populist and nationalist sentiment, which shows little sign of abating, threatens a fractured state of political and economic disorder completely at odds with the core needs of a globalised industry such as automotive manufacture.”


Next on the podium was Adam Parr – former CEO and Chairman of Williams Grand Prix Holdings PLC, now is currently a director of Cosworth Limited and the River Learning Trust.


Parr’s presentation was entitled: ‘Total Competition: Lessons in Strategy from Formula One’ and proved a fascinating insight as he explained how F1 has formed its strategy to meet its unique place in the market.


Luca Andreose then led a talk on the engagement services provided by Sophus3 which are at the cutting edge of technology using the most advanced data in the Automotive industry combined by a smart and dynamic Algorithm to generate more leads via active engagement, active recovery, live chat through to the digital showroom.


Following on was General Manager, BMW Modern Retailing, BMW Group UK, Franz Zimmer who discussed ‘The Digitalisation of Automotive Retailing’. Franz discussed the drivers towards digitalisation, the BMW Group approach as well as sharing the insights on the results.


After lunch, Patrick Fuller, Digital Business & Transformation Specialist and former Board Director of Haymarket Consumer Media, asked the question: “What can OEMs learn from the media?”

In his presentation, he explained how digital is changing the auto brand world as we know it.


Then Remi Reviere, Independent consultant, currently working with RCI Bank for the Renault-Nissan Alliance gave an entertaining talk entitled ‘Give Finance Love! -Why manufacturers must highlight financial products today, and focus on new service offerings tomorrow.


In summary, Reviere said: “Keep finance offers simple, and display them everywhere, 24/7. If it’s easy to understand, it’s likely to sell faster and more. Make finance your Amazon’s one-click purchase button. Easy wins awaiting.


“It takes little effort to sell features with high added-value for your customer. Get more profit and stronger loyalty. Go the extra step. Automotive finance is so much more than loans. Don’t let others take business you can make. Give finance Love, more Love, always. It improves strongly your business when things go well, and can save your life when they worsen.”


There were further talks from Fabio Borney, EMEA Digital Marketing and CRM Program Manager, Fiat Chrysler Automobile; Melanie Shufflebotham, Co- Founder & Director Next Green Car & Zap-Map before Sophus3 MD Scott Gairns led the final hour with an overview of the day’s events.


Summarising, he said: “The car market faces a tough year ahead due to economic and political uncertainty. Car brands and their digital teams must prepare for the approaching waves of disruption or risk being swept away.


“The digital consumer journey is marred by hurdles of inconvenience: We must put mobile first and reinvent small screen experience. Other industries have been forced to change and innovate…automotive hasn’t had to…yet.  The future is financial transactions. Get them right sooner rather than later. Click to buy is first step to transactional mobility future. The customer, not the automotive industry, will define the future of the automotive industry.”


Perhaps the most important statistics and data concerned the need for the automotive digital experience to reinvent itself for the mobile phone platform.


With more than 50% of all visits to car brand websites in 2016 coming via mobile devices and tablets, auto brands must make their platforms mobile-friendly or risk losing consumer interest. Visitors via mobile device bounced on the first page twice as often as when they visit from a desktop – an impressive if not entirely surprising statistic.


Another key finding was the need to optimize the digital showroom experience with a move towards guided selling. With flexibility and immediacy key to progress, a shift away from traditional values and the ability to think outside the box will become the norm rather than the exception.


Optimize the digital showroom experience and move to guided selling. Consumers are looking to engage at their discretion. With the peak of car brand visits on Sundays and half of completed test drives occurring on a different car brand than where the journey started, enabling and helping the visitor to take immediate purchasing steps via a direct sales portal will be a digital game-changer.


Using improved methods and skills via the media will also transform consumer engagement. With consumers spending less and less time on car brand sites (the average dwell time is 2 minutes 51 seconds), generating relevant content increases site engagement and if that content is user-generated, it helps build trust. Financial transactions and getting them right are one of the industry’s biggest immediate challenges.


As car brands move towards being mobility service providers, transactions with auto consumers will go from happening every four years to every four hours. By considering financial transaction processes from the consumer’s point of view, including click-to-buy and other processes, brands can make the journey central and much easier.


The emergence and popularity of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is another market shift auto brands need to embrace wholeheartedly. Within the next decade, EVs will make up 20% of all sales meaning the industry has to change and welcome EVs as a major part of their business.


Sophus3 MD Scott Gairns said: “The first step to innovation is reducing uncertainty to acceptable levels. Sophus3’s role is to help reduce uncertainty with data driven solutions and insight.


“eDataXchange (eDX) is the officially mandated digital market intelligence source for all the leading auto brands in the main European markets. We couldn’t have wished for a better turn out with the range of presentations both fascinating and insightful. Year on Year the Sophus3 Forum has become more vital to understanding the latest innovations and shifts in the automotive industry and our findings and guest presenters are helping shape the future of auto brands.


“We feel, now more than ever, by understanding the patterns and data we provide, auto brands will be better prepared for what is a constantly shifting landscape.”