The South African automotive industry is among those most frequently impacted by the smallest conditional shifts within the country. When things are going well, consumers have more money to buy locally manufactured vehicles and when Eskom lets the lights go out manufacturing can grind to a halt. The commercialisation of electric vehicle technology in South Africa is also going to have a long-term impact on the performance of several local plants.
While local sales have slumped in recent years due to the economic crunch felt by consumers, good news has recently given new hope to the export half of the market with businesslive.co.za reporting “a potential R60bn could be invested by SA’s vehicle manufacturers and component makers in the next five years” and businesstech.co.za reporting that “South Africa on track for record vehicle exports”. But will this be enough to make up for the shortfall in local sales which shows few signs of improvement?
The motor industry as a whole is suffering from a poor global economy and tariffs dispute between America and China with potential extension of that market unrest between America, the EU and Mexico (where several major manufacturers operate out of to cut labour costs). Manufacturers operating out of South Africa specifically have concerns regarding the country’s stability and the poor economic spending power of consumers as well as power grid stability.
To counteract slumping in-store sales car manufacturers and their dealers are turning increasingly to a more cost effective form of marketing to try and get the message across that in a tight economy, their brand has the best solution. Some in the industry have relied on attractive websites and existing brand strength, such as Volkswagen and Honda, limiting their search and display advertising to smaller budgets and simple banners.
This Spartan approach to their online marketing would likely only work for them. As two of the most popular local brands (along with Toyota and Nissan) they can rely on most car buying South Africans to search for their brands by name if they don’t see an ad to click on. Due to the sheer volume of their vehicles in the country entering the used car market, exposure is also a key element and it’s not one that their competitors can counter with passivity.
It can be said of most South African divisions of large manufacturers however that many have been caught like a bunny in the headlights when it comes to digital marketing. Traffic and engagement remain unfalteringly low for all but the already established brands.
Let’s Look at Some Examples
Below we have some comparative traffic numbers for Honda, the now discontinued Chrysler, Fiat, VW and Volvo over the period of a year. Honda, despite some highs and lows retains a relatively stable average over the course of a year. VW appears as a somewhat distant but relatively stable second while Fiat and Volvo perform little to no better than the abandoned Chrysler website.
Mixing it up a little below it’s apparent that those with the lower brand recognition who don’t pursue a strong online marketing presence also perform on par with Chrysler. Renault stands out but Subaru, Kia and Peugeot are nowhere to be found. Renault’s slight bump here is likely due in some part to their display advertising. Renault, in general, appears to focus more on paid marketing tactics such as search and display than their ‘on tier’ competitors and it’s working for them.
On the other hand their marketing budget doesn’t appear to be that high which means that were a competitor to dedicate a real effort to their own online campaign Renault could quickly find itself losing this narrow margin. Below we get a further indication of paid media spend and effectiveness, with Peugeot, Fiat and Subaru with little to show for whatever efforts they may be putting into a digital strategy. It’s worth noting once more though that even though Kia and Renault are performing better, the degree to which they’re doing so is tenuous.
Zooming in on the ‘all traffic’ window again over Jun 2018 – May 2019 we get a clearer picture of Renault’s complete performance against same tier competitors.
So what are Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat doing wrong?
For one thing, although Fiat does some display advertising, Subaru and Peugeot do little to none and their search campaigns are limited to the degree where it becomes difficult to ascertain their actual scope. Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat have nice looking websites with varying degrees of emphasis on user experience. Fiat’s is very user-friend but has little to no content onsite in which to place critical keywords or run search ads to.
Peugeot’s site is not particularly pretty and gives an impression of being a financial or money lending site at first glance. While it’s easy enough to find the car model you might be looking for more information on there’s little more than technical specs once you get to the car’s page. The site doesn’t do anything to tell the browser what that particular model excels at, what it’s known for or why they should care.
Subaru has a nice looking website that’s quite user-friendly and even has a news section for posting content. Part of their trouble is that they don’t. Publications are infrequent and far from optomised for online searches. They dropped a lot of content in June and a single article in September with nothing else to show for the year on their News page.
The link to real sales
While there are many causes for poor sales numbers to consider there’s a clear pattern here as well.
According to the sales figures from NUMSA the same manufacturers not engaging in digital promotion are seeing lagging sales figures while those who already enjoy powerful brand recognition such as Toyota, VW and Nissan take the lions share of the market. For the lesser known brands to make it in South Africa they need to create an image, claim a niche in the public’s eye and this isn’t something that happens on it’s own.
Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it’s no surprise that Google is at the forefront of its innovation and advancement. Google Lens is the company’s major investment into the AI space and it merges perfectly with its core search function.
Introduced to the world in 2017, Google Lens is image recognition technology developed by Google itself. It gives smartphone users the ability to find out more information about something they see by snapping a picture of it. Using visual based machine learning, it can identify and subsequently serve the user relevant information about the contents of the image. What’s more, the technology doesn’t only serve information on objects, but also barcodes, QR codes, labels and pieces of text.
Available on both Android and iOs, Google Lens has recently added features such as the ability to read handwriting, identify landmarks, plants and animals, and copy text. This year, Google has announced that even more features are to come, including the ability to recognize and recommend menu items, as well as split bills and figure out tips.
As Google Lens is essentially the newest edition to search engine marketing, how can companies optimise their online content for it? While Google Lens hasn’t receive full adoption by all consumers yet, it certainly won’t hurt to be prepared for this advancement in search marketing. Below are just a few ways to get your website prepared:
Ensure branding imagery is on point: From logos to signs, ensure your brand imagery is high quality and clearly visible. This makes your company easier to be picked up and your information served on Google Lens.
Fill in all alt tags: As imagery is your most important tool when it comes to Google Lens, all alt tags must be completed in detail.
Optimize photo data: Adding to the basics of your image information will help the platform to serve more relevant information to users. On top of image size, date, time and coordinates, use unique, high quality images, use the JPEG format, use appropriate image sizes for your website and add captions that are as descriptive as possible.
By 2018, Google Lens was officially available on both Pixel and non-Pixel phones via the Google Photos app on iOS, in Google Assistant and on the Google app. Languages it supports include; English, spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Korean. This makes it clear how heavily invested Google is in the AI industry, making access to information simpler by the day.
Many of today’s successful technology companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon are focused on building collaborative environments. Why? Because of greater productivity and creativity.
I’ve read somewhere that one of the biggest trends this year and the next in content marketing is more active engagement outside the silo. In an industry that is quickly evolving, this is essential for a culture of continuous improvement.
Far too many marketing agencies still maintain school playground dynamics; the content producers are huddled in one corner, the PPC’ers in the other, and the Display team somewhere in the middle. This tribalism can easily result into either a popularity contest about which department is the “cool kids table” or into a sort of communal disinterest in what others are up to.
This is perhaps unavoidable in large corporates but luckily at TMI, we’ve learned that giving support, input, sharing resources, and approaching others for information has enabled different departments to be creative and solve problems together.
To quote Rick Bosch, Head of Earned at TMI: “At TMI we have a knowledge sharing culture, meaning we work together, closely. This covers more than just a single department or discipline. Besides working closely across numerous departments, we also work closely with our clients. From hotdesking in their offices, to upskilling internal marketing teams in the latest digital trends and techniques, we don’t keep our knowledge to ourselves, we share it.”
The bar for quality continues to rise as the technology used to create and publish campaigns and content improve. Content marketing, for example, becoming more automated, customised and multichannel. This means that where content producers used to think creatively to produce online material, they might also need an analytical input of the Search and Display specialists to offer value to the target audience.
Here’s a very likely scenario: a new client hires us to execute and manage a PPC campaign for their launch. After two years of a successful PPC partnership, the client upgrades to content as well. The content team is ready to woo the client with their creativity, and whilst it’s all good to have them let their imaginations run wild, how can they make sure their content addresses the problems, questions and desires of the brand’s target audience?
The Search and Display specialists have already pinpointed the client’s marketing and advertising needs, which means they have the data to identify content opportunities.
Each marketing department in the agency has different ways of attracting, engage and convert the client’s customers – and will be able to offer varying insights into the requirements and expectations in terms of the content that will communicate value to the audience.
The point is, every client success story isn’t credited only to a few rock stars in the agency or a single, best performing team, but on the objectives that align different departments to work together. When we extend involvement on a campaign to more people, we enable clients to tap into a deeper pool of ideas, knowledge and skills.
Almost like assembling our very own Avengers team of superheroes.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly become a prevalent tool with the digital marketing industry, and shows no signs of stopping. Digital asset management company Canto states that “over 100 marketing tools are already AI-enhanced, and it’s expected that nearly all [marketing technology] will have AI capabilities in 2019.” This is particularly true when it comes to both SEO and content marketing.
AI and Content Strategy
When it comes to creating and implementing a content strategy, AI can prove extremely beneficial, particularly when it comes to data analytics. AI can collect and analyse large amounts of data pertaining to a brand’s audience. What’s more, it could perform this task far more quickly than any human being. Using the data that has been collected, marketers could formulate a strong and properly targeted strategy comprised of content that is personalised based on numerous factors, from shopping tendencies and location, to personal traits and interests.
Personalisation is crucial to content strategy creation, with audience members seeking content that speaks more to their own situations, and to their particular concerns and wishes. Brands can respond by tailoring online shopping experiences that are based on shopping tendencies that are particular to a specific user. AI can help with this, enabling you to create specialised features based on consumer data and behaviour.
Added to all that, brands will be able to create more effective content marketing strategies with the help of AI marketing assistants. This is hardly the stuff of the future, as proven by Lucy, IBM Watson’s very own AI assistive tool. Lucy can help in the research and analysis of marketing data, the segmentation of target audiences, and the planning of media strategies.
AI and Search Engines
Search engines are, of course, integral to SEO, and over time they’ve become far better when it comes to ranking pages. Due to their gradual improvement, SEO marketers have had to up their own game with regards to how they implement SEO strategies. Not only have they had to brush up on functions that are related to SEO, such as metadata optimisation and link acquisition, but they’ve also had to consider how users are and will be searching for products and services on Google.
After all, as content intelligence platform Atomic Reach notes on Search Engine Journal, “Google…is always improving their search algorithms to adjust to how consumers are searching.” For example, Google is already adapting itself to the steadily growing popularity of voice search, having already enabled Google Assistant to recognise human conversation. Now, as Atomic Reach explains, “it is estimated that 50 percent of searches will be voice-based.”
More and more tools
We’ve already spoken a bit about online tools enabled by AI that help consumers access content more easily and help marketers create effective content strategies. But it doesn’t stop here. There are other programmes and platforms that use AI technology to make things a little bit easier for brands. For example, HubSpot and Buzzsumo are able to notify a company when it has been mentioned by another source, while Atomic Reach tracks analytics in order to measure content performance.
AI is gradually becoming a pertinent tool within the field of digital marketing, as proven by its effects on both the creation of content marketing strategies and on SEO. Numerous tools have been and are being developed in order to help brands with their digital marketing and enable web users to navigate content in a way that best suits their specific needs. What with all these advancements, who knows what the marketing industry will look like in the next ten years?