Six Automotive Trends That Will Change the Way You Market in 2022 (and Beyond)

Insights

One of the most common questions in the automotive industry heading into 2022 is: When will the car sales market make its complete comeback? But as we look forward to the next 12 months, we can already tell that major industry transitions happening this year will mean that when the market comes back in full force, what that market looks like will be very different.

This coming year, dealers who spend more effort than ever building and maintaining their relationships with new and existing customers will find themselves the most prepared for the industry changes coming down the pike. Position your business as a frontrunner in 2022 and beyond by incorporating these consumer-centered automotive trends into your marketing planning.

1. Continued Rise of End-to-End Online Car Shopping

This new consumer expectation began during the pandemic when in-person dealership locations closed temporarily to stop the spread of the virus, and virtually every aspect of life adapted to take place online.

Life may be resuming in non-digital spaces, but the convenience of online shopping for practically anything, including a vehicle, isn’t going anywhere. According to ABC News quoting automotive retail consultant Alan Haig of Haig Partners, less than 2% of all vehicle sales were made online before the pandemic. By contrast, in 2021, almost 30% of all new car sales were online.

In 2022, customers will be less likely to do business with dealerships where they cannot shop, purchase, and even have their vehicle delivered without leaving home.

How to Plan in 2022

  • Start a virtual showroom on your website if you haven’t already. Add capabilities to purchase online and have vehicles delivered as you’re able.
  • Identify new and consistent ways you can engage with consumers in digital communications.
  • Invest in the personalization of your digital content to offer the products and services valuable to consumers at the time of communication. (For this to be effective, you’ll need to start with clean data.)

2. Slow Return of Supply Chain Normalcy

Experts say that the reinstatement of supply will be as slow and that it will be as far out as 2023 or even 2024 before the automotive industry finds relief from shortages that cause limited inventory and make it challenging to fulfill customers’ vehicle preferences. Meanwhile, higher prices are causing consumers to be pickier about vehicle purchases than ever. Automotive News quoted Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasts for LMC Automotive, as saying, “We’re starting to see the risk that buyers are going to pull out, that they’re not going to pay those [high] prices for something that’s not exactly what they want.”

How to Plan in 2022

  • Keep communication consistent even while inventory is light. Stay top of mind so that when you have the vehicle a customer wants or the market does open again, you’ll be the conspicuous place consumers take their business.
  • Focus on building and maintaining relationships with consumers. Keep their trust and loyalty by sending valuable, timely communications that address their vehicle needs, as uncertain and shifting as those might be this year.
  • Offer incentives where you can. This may be the year to implement your referral program or service rewards system.

3. Cybersecurity Concerns

Automotive industry insurer Zurich North America identified cybersecurity as one of the trends to watch out for in 2022. Indeed, with more and more automotive shopping going digital, dealerships will need to do more to protect their cybersecurity in 2022. Cyber-attacks impact even the largest and most prepared organizations, taking the whole business offline in minutes and damaging consumer trust levels even after digital operations are restored. It’s essential to plan for handling a cybersecurity breach and do what you can to avoid one.

How to Plan in 2022

  • Document security policies for your team and create an emergency plan in case of a cybersecurity attack, including how you will get your business back online, how the company can run in an interim emergency capacity should your systems not be available, and how you’ll communicate about the event during and after it occurs.
  • Audit your current digital properties and vet all-new online tools and platforms for how they handle security best practices such as multifactor authentication, system permissions and access, database backups, form and web page encryption, frequency of security updates, and patches, required password strength, etc.
  • Consider having a cybersecurity expert look over your systems and digital properties to identify and remove risks.

4. Increasing Focus on Environmental Impacts of Vehicles

Consumers are paying closer attention to the sustainability and environmental consciousness of their vehicle purchase choices, and trend that will become even more apparent in 2022. With many manufacturers promising zero-emission vehicles in the near future, the ability to make more sustainable vehicle buying choices will mean that more interested consumers will explore these options.

According to CNBC, Volkswagen has reported its goal to offer almost 100% emission-free new vehicles in major markets by 2040. And BBC reports more electric vehicle numbers, stating that “General Motors says it will make only electric vehicles by 2035, Ford says all vehicles sold in Europe will be electric by 2030 and VW says 70% of its sales will be electric by 2030.”

In particular, younger car buyers are concerned about the sustainability of their purchasing choices. They are more interested in hybrid, and upcoming electric vehicle options, particularly as the future of gas vehicles become less clear.

How to Plan in 2022

  • Keep sustainability and earth consciousness at the front of your mind in all communications, particularly those surrounding vehicle purchases.
  • Brainstorm ways to make purchasing a more sustainable vehicle easier, more pleasant, or more rewarding for your customers who want to pursue the option.
  • According to Mike Albert Fleet Solutions, younger customers are the most unsure about the future of gas vehicles. You and your team should be mindful of as you communicate to the most youthful car-buying age brackets.

5. New Compliance Regulations

2022 will bring federal regulatory changes for the automotive industry at the national level. Auto-insurer Zurich North America specifically identifies finance and insurance and lending practices as areas where dealers should pay special attention to transparency and consistent processes in the new year.

How to Plan in 2022

  • Create documented policies and processes around finance, insurance, and lending for your team to follow if you haven’t already. Zurich North America suggests creating special regulatory training to ensure team members understand compliance changes that arise as the year moves forward.
  • Review your deals periodically for process and terms consistency. Go over any areas of concern with team members before you would reach the point of worrying about compliance trouble.
  • Get a third-party partner to help monitor your deals to keep your business well within the bounds of compliance regulations.

6. More Effects of The Great Resignation

Successful customer relations and retention is cultivating an invested, engaged dealership staff. The automotive industry’s rapid shift to digital sales and service makes it even more important than ever to invest in employees’ satisfaction at work. Many of your team members’ roles might shift from in-person sales to something in the digital realm that they’re less familiar with or less sure about. Investments to keep employees with proven skills and knowledge of your business will serve you better than constantly recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires.

How to Plan in 2022

  • Get employees more involved and more invested in the success of the dealership. Ask your staff for their direct input into key daily business areas. Then, respond in a timely and collaborative way to places where they’ve identified a need for improvements. You may make some giant leaps in your ability to market and run the business in the process.
  • Focus on more outstanding work-life balance and opportunities for Associate advancement. Consider setting aside time and budget to send employees to skill-building or networking events or to allow them to participate in organizations that mean something to them. They will bring everything they gain back to work with them, to the benefit of your company.

Plan for Marketing Success in 2022

Given these continuing and upcoming trends, the specific strategies your dealership’s marketing plan follows might need to look different in this coming year. It may help to realize that it’s still all about understanding your consumers — the way you communicate and build relationships with them as we navigate these new challenges together as both an industry and as consumers.

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