Online Presence: why it is vital in today’s car buying process

typing on a laptop

As consumers, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. It’s no doubt that the research process during the car buying experience has changed dramatically. According to studies by Google, “consumers in their early research moment, such as which car-is-best or is-it-right for me moments, are signaling intent to visit a dealership within a week”. A visit to your website is ideally followed by a visit to the dealership. So, for automotive retailers, having a strong digital presence is crucial.

According to Google, the car buyers’ thought process looks a little something like this:

  • Which car is best?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Where should I buy it?
  • Am I getting a deal?
Which car is best?

One of the most impactful mediums for consumers looking to make a vehicle purchase is video. In fact, when buying a car, 69% are influenced by video opposed to other mediums such as TV, newspapers or magazines. When using the search network, the most common searched terms are “[brand/make] + reviews”, “[brand/make] + specs” and “best luxury cars”. 

Is it right for me?

After consumers have narrowed down their search, they begin their hunt to find out if the vehicle is right for their lifestyle and needs. This is where the consumers discover features/options and the interior/exterior aesthetic. This is mainly a visual process, and a majority of time is spent looking at photos. The photo searches of “[brand/make]” is up 37%  and 80% of these searches are now happening on mobile.

Can I afford it? Where should I buy it? Am I getting a deal?

After the first two questions have been answered, the consumer generally begins searching for a dealership. This is where the individual dealer’s web presence will become a factor. Dealers need to make sure that they are showcasing OEM incentives, internal promotions, as well as leasing/financing information. But most importantly, prices need to be shown because that is what the customer is ultimately looking for. Dealers should also make sure that their site provides a positive user experience; something as simple as having an unresponsive webpage can impact whether or not a user decides to visit the dealership.

Dealers also need to utilize tools such as Google+ reviews, automotive forums, Unhaggle, and other mediums that customers use to help them make their salesman congratulates a family for buying car

Despite the evolving methods of how consumers access information, the end of the process always ends at the dealership. As consumers come into dealerships equipped with their researched knowledge, they expect sales staff to also be product-experts. In order for manufacturers and dealers to fully understand the decision making avenues of the buyer, they must understand the small “micro-transactions” involved throughout the entire procedure. Having a strong digital presence in each of the avenues will always set a dealer ahead of the competition.

To find out more about how to improve your online presence and get more leads, give us a call today or subscribe to our newsletter!

Do Car Dealers Still Rip People Off?

sleazy car salesman

If video killed the radio star, perhaps the internet killed the sleazy-car-salesman stereotype. Of course there are always going to be salespeople that only have their own best interest at heart, but thanks to the internet it is much more difficult for car dealers to manipulate a customer like they could back in the ’70s and ’80s. All a customer has to do is enter the information for the vehicle they want into Google and can determine right then and there if they are getting a good deal.

As discussed in an article from Dealer Bar, the auto industry is very unique in that, “As consumers, we don’t blink an eye when buying a couch or a shirt that brings in 50% or more profit to the retailer, but car dealers often struggle to make 4% off of a vehicle sold”. Of course dealerships are still making money, but this distinction is something that car buyers should consider.

This is great news for car buyers! We can now make more informed buying decisions and we should no longer feel so intimidated when visiting a dealership. I think as car buyers we can begin to view the process this way:

“They aren’t your enemy. You want to buy a vehicle and they want to sell one. Your goals are aligned.”

The Purpose of the Halo Car: What is it Used For?

In an age of “hybrid synergy drive”, CVT’s and FWD, you may be wondering what purpose an archaic, performance-focused flagship vehicle can serve?

2016 Audi RS7 4.0T
2016 Audi RS7 4.0T

Often complex, under produced and over-engineered, halo cars can be described as a figurehead of a brand. They act as a symbol of a brands research, ability and image. One could argue it to be so much more than a symbol to a manufacturer, a flagship vehicle serves one of two purposes. Primarily, drawing eyes both young and old to a distinct brand. Additionally, a flagship vehicle can enthrall and inspire buyers into purchasing a brands comparable models. In doing so, a halo car helps sell a large number of “mainstream” vehicles to consumers. Whether they’re as common as a Miata, or perhaps as rare as Mercedes’ Maybach series, each serve a purpose.

2017 Toyota 86
2017 Toyota 86

Take the Scion FR-S (now Toyota 86), for example. This small performance coupe served the purpose of bringing in young, upcoming buyers, buyers who might be searching for performance and aesthetic appeal at the moment, but will likely find themselves needing to trade into something larger and more utilitarian down the road. This buyer has spent the last number of years building a relationship with Toyota, and Toyota now has a particular advantage when it comes time for the buyer to make that upgrade and buy a new vehicle.

Further, buyers may feel inspired by a flagship vehicle’s performance metrics or luxury offerings to the level at which it will influence their next purchase. An example of this would be those seeking an Audi RS Model after being influenced by the acceleration, looks, and overall presence of an Audi RS7. The buyer decided to pursue the closest option he could achieve – the Audi A7. The A7’s 333hp 3.0-liter turbo engine may not enjoy the same potency as the RS7’s 605hp 4.0-liter turbo engine, however the buyer has achieved similar styling, luxury, engineering and presence.

2016 Audi 3.0T
2016 Audi 3.0T

So what are halo cars used for? These distinct luxury or performance oriented vehicles serve a much more prominent role than simply portraying a manufacturers potential. These figurehead models ensure similar vehicles are sold in large numbers so dealers can facilitate in generating lifelong customers.

Google Research for Car Dealers

Google has changed the way we access information.  For the last 15 years, it has slowly impacted every portion of our lives, in most cases, making finding information easier and more relevant, and settling late night arguments a snap.  Given how good Google is at providing us data, they also have an unbelievable amount of information on the habits and patterns of people who use.  With that data, and 2300 or so volunteers who bought or leased a car in the last 12 months, they came out with some pretty cool information for Car Dealers on the impact of Search and other emerging technologies like Mobile, Video, and Social.  I’ve combed through their Google Think report a dozen times now and wanted to share some of the data I thought was impressive and how leveraging this information can help your dealership gain a competitive edge in 2013 and beyond. Consumer Influence In 3 years, the window of time a dealer or manufacturer has to influence a new consumer has shrunk from 36 days in 2009, to 30 days in 2012.  Dealers have less time to market to and convince a buyer that they have the right vehicle for them.  33% of buyers spend less than 2 weeks researching and investigating vehicles before purchasing, which is an incredibly short window. Information sources have also changed, with Online (75%) and In Dealership (76%) neck in neck for importance to consumers researching what car to buy.  Traditional media is still steadily declining with Radio at 36% and Newspaper at 31%. Specifically with online sources, there are also deep shifts in the sources used by consumers: Shift in online sources used by car shoppers Ad Recall is also changing significantly across various mediums with Print and TV declining, Keyword Ads and Radio Neutral (No Change), and Display Advertising online increasing by 9%. Online Video 18% of online shoppers who bought a vehicle watched online videos during the buying cycle.  73% of them did it on YouTube.  Here is what they were looking at: What Kind of Videos Car Buyers are looking at Mobile Mobile is a fast growing area with the proliferation of Smartphones, Tablets and other portable devices.  It is also significantly impacting the automotive space.  33% of shoppers used their mobile devices during the buying cycle. 27% of them searched for a dealership specifically, 32% visited a dealer by finding directions on their device, and 33% used click to call to get in touch with a dealer.  During the research phase of buying their car here is the information they were consuming: Mobile Browsing information for Car Buyers Social Media Everyone talks about Social Media and car buyers are no exception.  Social Media so far is primarily used as a barometer for customer service, with 57% of car buyers using social media using it to read reviews vehicles, and 42% using Social Channels to read Dealership specific reviews.   These patterns look like they will hold true for the balance of 2012, and well into 2013.  Is your dealership ready to compete online in Search and Display advertising, Mobile Websites and Experience, Video Development, and Social Media and Reputation Management?  Strathcom has the the tools and the know how to help your dealership succeed in any or all of these mediums.  Give us a call today to get started.