Automotive and women: Mad Maxine Study

03 · 08 · 2017



Automotive is a man’s world, at least that’s we’ve been led to believe. But, when it comes to the use, purchase and enjoyment of cars by women, what is the reality?

This idea is still present in commercial communication and during the purchasing process; the automotive industry is still, primarily, selling to men, but society is changing and the automotive industry will have to act fast to catch up.

In our study, Mad Maxine, we interviewed more than 719 women in the United Kingdom and analysed information from more than 48,000 users in order to understand how they handle the entire buying process, as well as their experiences with different automotive brands.

Our research demonstrates three overarching themes pertinent female consumer experience of automotive:

  • 90% of female consumers surveyed would not visit a car dealership without a male partner, male family member or male friend
  • 56% said they felt patronised by car advertising
  • 34% believed that no car brand understands women

Women express both delight and dismay at their experiences with the automotive industry. The challenge is, that those negative experiences are often so exasperating that they overshadow the majority of the good experiences and leave women feeling “demeaned” and “uncomfortable”.

The quantitative analysis compiled in our study revealed how our respondents really felt about each phase of the automotive buying process:

  • Brand experience: generally unsatisfactory, particularly in regards to commercial communication and brand approach.
  • Buying experience: this is the part of the automotive experience women are most satisfied with, awarding it a 7 out of 10 on our satisfaction score. Is this because automotive brands have invested huge amounts of money in recent years in digital transformation projects that have largely focused on the brand touchpoints experienced by in-market car buyers? Or is this because most touchpoints experienced in- market are not with manufacturers or dealers at all, but with “people like me” who have experience of the brand or model in question. Our research suggests a bit of both.
  • Dealership Experience: This part of the process is the most broken. It is obvious from our research, however, that the real problem facing OEMs is that female consumers do not differentiate between brand/manufacturer and dealership. A bad experience in a dealership can undo positive impressions earned through clever marketing or customer recommendations.
  • Ownership Experience: It is reductive to view the purchase of a car as the final step in a customer’s journey. Moreover, the act of buying a car is just one part of a much more complex process that is far from over at the point of purchase. Throughout the experience of car ownership, consumers continue to build on their relationships with different car brands, not just brands they’ve purchased from but any that they are aware of, whether they were made aware through advertising, friends and family, a ride in a taxi, or through any other means. However, while brand perception continues to weaken and improve, we have found that only positive experience of ownership results in true advocacy and brand loyalty. Nobody can be blamed for mistaking lust for love on the first test drive, but both manufacturers and drivers know that true bonds are built over time.

It is growing increasingly difficult to accurately map the customer’s journey as the process and touchpoints they encounter become more complex;

  • You no longer define your brand; your brand is defined by the people who experience it.
  • It’s an ‘always-on’ process. The consumer journey is not a funnel. It is not even a circular journey from awareness to consideration, to purchase, to advocacy. It is a messier process where brand experience is affected at every moment, by every touchpoint.
  • Most of the time these touchpoints are not controlled by you.

Women are demanding change, and the automotive industry should take note. Women want;

  1. A transformation in the way cars are marketed.
  2. A transformation in the way cars are sold.
  3. A product, service and experience that demonstrates true empathy with women “like me”.

Read the full Mad Maxine study here

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'A fresh postgrad in Human Resource Management from the University of Sussex, the idea of learning about ‘people’ is still such a fascinating topic to me. Despite hailing from a business background, I’ve never been one to shy away from anything creative - talk to me about photography and design and I’m all ears! 

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