Online ad network Komli has finished a six month study of five thousand internet users from India and tracking their behavior online has arrived at a number of interesting conclusions. Speaking to exchange4media, Amit Bhartiya, Business Head of Komli’s audience measuring system ViziSense, said, “Having identified potential auto-buyers, we saw that a lot of the content consumed is very similar to the kind of information people look for in the offline world as well. In many ways, the online space acts as a mirror for the offline space, allowing people to get as much information as possible before making a very involved decision.”
The growth in online interest, in automotive portals and autoblogs, along with the websites of the car companies, according to the study and a report by SIAM (Society of Indian Auto Manufacturers) is largely parallel to the actual growth in sales. Bhartiya points out that the year on year traffic for the month of December grew by 51 per cent and that the sales in cars also went up by 33 per cent for the same period. This, he feels, reflects the fact that the people on the internet are affluent and looking to make purchases.
In the offline space, a lot of the decision making before buying a car is done through information gathering. Whether this is done through word of mouth information, like asking friends for their opinions about a particular car model, or reading magazines to get the view of experts, a strong social component underpins the experience. According to Bhartiya, the same is true for the online model, with the added benefit of bringing in easy comparisons with other brands and other models.
He said, “Around 50 per cent of all interactions online are of a social nature. Whether people are sharing their experiences of cars, or with a particular dealership, or talking about after sales service.” Online people seem more interested in seeking advice from their peers rather than seeking expert inputs.
“People who are online show a preference for user reviews rather than for expert views, while only around 20 per cent of the users go to OEM sites. People who go to the OEM site spend 15-20 per cent more time there than on the auto-portals. The largest use for the online space though,” he added, “is in the comparison of different brands and different models.”
Despite the strong involvement of automobile manufacturers in the digital space, the majority of people who fit the auto-buyer profile created by Komli were people who used search engines to discover information about cars. While the social media and online campaigns were both important, discovery would begin with search engines.
Bhartiya said, “Almost 80 per cent of the buyers begin with a search engine, so on the whole, a digital presence is crucial and a good understanding of search engines is key.”