The automotive industry has faced significant disruption over the past few years, with new energy vehicles going from 0 to 10 million cars sold in 10 years and a plethora of new brands and products entering the NEV ecosystem across the customer journey.

Compared with the purchase of petrol/diesel cars, consumers’ needs are very different. With battery life, recharging time and the availability of charging networks, being top concerns for NEV customers.

Needs expressed in an Ipsos Consumer Survey:

Source: Ipsos Navigator, 2022

One of the fastest and most cost-effective ways of keeping track of these new emerging needs is to monitor online conversations. Internet users turn to social networking sites, forums, and online communities every day to discuss the topics above – and these mentions are a goldmine of insights for Automotive brands to understand how consumers are thinking, feeling, and behaving. In Q1 2023 alone, circa 20% of all online automotive content on social media was related to the topic of New Energy Vehicles, reflecting a category in significant growth.

To illustrate this point, using Ipsos Synthesio’s AI-enabled consumer intelligence platform, we analyzed thousands of unsolicited comments and conversations from customers to uncover the top themes in the US market. Results showed that 40 % of conversations are related to charging. Delving further into the conversations we uncovered how charging is both a hot topic and a frustration for many EV owners, and it can also be a barrier to purchase. See below:

Evolving customer needs for New Energy Vehicles: US example

Source: Synthesio, US conversations Jan 1st, 2023, to May 30th 2023, Topic Modelling

Social intelligence can support in-depth understanding of the consumer sentiment around each of these topics, getting closer to consumers, their needs and their emotions. The key topics identified regarding charging are related to costs, stations, speed of charging, solutions/infrastructure and charging etiquette.

A typical quote on Twitter summarizing some of the frustrations:
“Push everyone to buy EV:s. The US grid is not ready…charging solutions suck in many places. The grid goes down, and electric prices soar. Everyone stops moving. Not an economist…but I think we´re going too far, too fast and starting in the wrong place”.

A changing Brandscape and optimizing sales performance

Not only are needs evolving, but the landscape of car brands is also dramatically changing, with many new car brands from China entering the NEV market.

Through social intelligence, we can track brand growth as well as provide a read on brands’ online reputation, leveraging Ipsos Synthesio’s Social Reputation Score (SRS): The score is a proprietary metric combining volume of mentions with sentiment. The higher the volume of positive conversation about a brand, the healthier a brand’s online reputation and the higher the score. Research by Ipsos on behalf of automotive clients has demonstrated the Social Reputation Score is a leading indicator for sales performance alongside inputs such as advertising spend, macro-economic factors, seasonality, and regulation. Hence this measure is highly actionable.

Source: Synthesio, US conversations Jan 1st, 2023, to May 30th 2023

Through deep diving into what is behind the SRS score for each brand, we can determine how well different brands are performing on important attributes that are likely to impact sales. We can then give strategic direction for improvement to help clients optimize their in-market, performance:

Determine priority areas for improvement to improve market share: US example

For illustrative purpose only.

Areas for improvement: having established the SRS score is a leading indicator for sales we look at how your brand compares to competitors according to key brand attributes and the feedback from customers online.

In this case the brand should focus on dealer experience and customer service as priority areas to boost its SRS rating.

The importance of country of origin in the customer decision making process

As the brandscape for EV evolves, and new brands extend their reach across global markets, there is some debate about how country of origin might impact on customer purchase decision making. Taking China as an example, an interesting ‘sentiment gap’ has emerged in the US market. Where the narrative online about China as the country of origin is more likely to be negative, while the sentiment towards specific Chinese EV models is more likely to be positive.

Evaluating the importance of the country of origin in brand evaluation: US example

Source: Ipsos Synthesio US conversations Jan 1st, 2023, to May 30th, 2023

This ‘sentiment gap’ reveals an interesting tension in the US market. While overall feedback may reflect a sense of patriotism and express negative sentiment towards products produced overseas, when it comes to purchasing behavior, we are likely to observe a different reality. In this case, driven by perceptions around the affordability and quality of EV models which happen to originate in China, the feedback online about these Chinese products is more likely to be positive.

Noting these products are mostly in launch phase in the US market, and before customers share their actual experiences across the customer journey as they have done with US and German brands, this insight provides useful context for brands to navigate and achieve competitive advantage.

What does this mean for Automotive Brands

As the New Energy Vehicle landscape continues to evolve, it is important to stay close to the voice of the customer, to really understand their needs but also the barriers to purchase. Brands that listen to the consumer and act, are more likely to be authentic and empathetic, and can gain a real competitive advantage if their products and services meet real consumer needs and expectations.

Both social and survey data show us that there is strong consumer demand for innovation and a much better customer experience, which is different from what was deemed important with the traditional car. This represents pressure but also opportunities for brands to develop solutions for the future.

To help navigate this changing market and optimize sales performance Ipsos Synthesio has launched New Energy Vehicles Pulse, an industry solution designed to provide insights and answers to the industry’s top challenges. An efficient way to understand the market before entering with new models as well as an invaluable tool to evaluate consumer reactions when launched.

The offering includes strategic insight reports written by industry experts that dive into the latest trends, emerging behaviors, and hot topics – and access to real-time Ipsos Synthesio automotive dashboards. By combining the broadest set of online data sources, AI technology, and Ipsos’ analytical frameworks, we help you uncover how the latest consumer and market shifts are likely to impact your sector and your brand and the actions you need to take to optimize in market sales performance.

To learn more, request a demo or contact Lena Gilchrist or Gareth Deere.