November 25, 2014
The top 15 percent of influencers generate 59 percent of word of mouth leads for automotive brands, according to a new report by Foresight Research.
The report also found that luxury consumers are more likely to influence and be influenced by word of mouth than buyers in other categories. As brands find more innovative ways to leverage consumer voices, the impact of word of mouth will only grow.
"Word of mouth is a prominent influencer in new auto purchases," said Nancy Walter, vice president of business development at Foresight Research, Detroit. "Almost one-third of new auto buyers say they were moderately or completely influenced by it, and that can go as high as 45 percent for a highly-influenced brand like Audi.
"Word of Mouth is all about getting more from your marketing dollars,"she said. "Marketers want to encourage buyers to recommend their brand and influence additional purchases."
Foresight Research interviewed 7,500 recent car buyers for the "Word of Mouth Immersion Report."
The most influential consumers are, unsurprisingly, those who are heavily invested in a specific brand. After purchasing a car, these consumers regularly post about their experiences online, amassing a sizable audience over time, or simply attracting prospective buyers to review aggregators.
They spend on average $246 on auto brand accessories, suggesting that they embrace the overall lifestyle of a favorite brand. This group of buyers is also most likely to use mobile devices, attend auto events and use social media.
From Audi's Paid My Dues series
Foresight Research found that for luxury brands, the word of mouth effect is increased.
Seventeen percent of luxury brand buyers represent 70 percent of the luxury brand word of mouth. Luxury brands give advice to an average of 4.6 consumers, while non-luxury buyers give advice to an average of 3.7 consumers.
To quantify how much of an impact word of mouth has on sales, Foresight Research created a "Word of Mouth Amplifier Index." Audi had the highest word of mouth score at 2.51, followed by Mercedes-Benz at 2.14. The industry average was 1.22.
Mercedes-Benz, in particular, routinely showcases passionate owners to enhance this effect.
For instance, Mercedes honors dedicated fans by featuring the stories behind their passion for the brand and how they became owners on its Facebook page.
Mercedes-Benz Owner's Stories
The “Owner’s Stories” profiles vary in formats ranging from question and answer to brief anecdotes and personal histories. Mercedes demonstrates its commitment to fans and will likely fortify brand loyalties by going beyond fleeting social-media interactions to delve into the lives of consumers (see story).
Ms. Walter said that the best way to improve the effect of word of mouth is to leverage influencers, target first-time buyers, expand the reach of favorable articles.
Prior brand experience influences 62 percent of consumer purchases, followed by dealership experiences at 59 percent, according to another report by Foresight Research.
The report also found that word of mouth and brochures are waning in their capacity to influence. However, luxury consumers, who are perhaps more discerning, are influenced by more possible channels, including auto shows (see story).
Brands are also finding that recognizing the people behind the scenes can make a huge impact on overall performance.
The perception of a brand tends to be splintered, with customers, employees, investors and influencers all holding differing views that can end up muddling a brand’s image, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group.
Employees are essentially ambassadors and have the ability to foster a coherent brand identity if properly trained. As employees interact with the many parties involved with a brand, the opportunity to express a singular identity can be seized or squandered (see story).
Joe McCarthy, staff writer on Luxury Daily, New York