Polk, AutoTrader Study Reveals Online Shopper Behavior Patterns


How much time are shoppers spending on the Web researching new- and used-vehicle purchases?

According to the Automotive Buyer Influence Study conducted by Polk and AutoTrader.com, these consumers are on the Internet an average of 18 to 19 hours before making a purchase. The study also showed approximately 60 percent of shopping time is spent online.

Officials from Polk and AutoTrader.com went on to reveal that 58 percent of used-vehicle buyers and half of new-vehicle buyers said their Internet research was the most influential element in their vehicle search, and ultimately led them to the dealership where they made their vehicle purchase. 

“As part of their business planning initiatives, OEMs and dealers need to be certain they’re developing Internet strategies to meet consumers’ needs,” study orchestrators insisted.

“This means understanding and investing in Web features that are most valued — and maintaining them regularly — to drive consumer traffic to their showrooms,” they continued.

Polk and AutoTrader.com said the survey polled 4,005 U.S. consumers who recently purchased a new or used vehicle from a dealership.

Results determined that more than 70 percent of new- and used-vehicle buyers stated they utilized the Internet while shopping for their vehicle. In addition to being the most-used channel for information, the study determined that two-thirds of those surveyed rated the Internet as “extremely helpful” in their purchase decision.

In comparison, Polk and AutoTrader.com found only half of used- and new-vehicle shoppers rated a referral from a friend or family member as “extremely helpful.” Meanwhile, they added other sources such as TV, radio and direct mail scored much lower. 

Despite the popularity of social media among consumers, the study pointed out only 3 percent of the new- and used-vehicle buyers surveyed indicated social networking sites influenced their vehicle purchase decision. 

“This is not to say that OEMs and auto marketers should ignore social media,” report authors declared.

“However, it serves as a reminder about the other primary channels that are currently more influential in the vehicle shopping process than social media,” they went on to note. “Marketers must make sure they’re doing everything they can to market effectively and efficiently through those channels before focusing too much on their social media efforts.”

Honing in specifically on new-vehicle shoppers, the study showed that vehicle comparison tools are most helpful, followed by pricing information.

When probing used-vehicle shoppers, survey respondents said they prefer pricing information followed by vehicle comparison tools. 

Furthermore, Polk and AutoTrader.com learned 42 percent of new-vehicle buyers use the Internet to find out about special offers, dealer rebates and incentives — much more than their used-vehicle counterparts at 28 percent. 

The study also revealed that search engines are commonly used with Google cited as a primary mechanism for getting buyers to the dealership website from which they purchased their vehicle. About half of study respondents who visited a dealer website arrived at that site via search. 

“According to the survey data, for most car buyers, however, search engines are the new Yellow Pages,” study orchestrators surmised.

“Buyers are using online search engines to find specific information like the address, website or phone number of dealerships they already know or are aware of,” they added.

Despite all of the discussion about how significant the Internet is, the study also touched on the importance of dealership walk-up traffic.

Turns out, seven out of 10 vehicle buyers walk into a dealership without establishing any contact with the store first. 

“As a result, dealerships must maximize their online marketing — both in marketing the vehicles they have for sale, as well as their dealership experience,” Polk and AutoTrader.com emphasized.

AutoTrader.com president and chief executive officer Chip Perry stressed how important it was to collaborate with Polk on this study.

“Through this research with Polk, AutoTrader.com was able to further explore the impact and influence that Internet advertising has on car shoppers and car buyers and the overall amount of time they spent on the Internet,” Perry explained.

“Partnering with Polk on this research truly allowed us to get a representative national sample and clearly define where consumers are getting their information in advance of vehicle purchases,” he continued.

Andrew Price, vice president, sales and client services for Polk’s automotive retail solutions and media division, elaborated on how the study findings can help all kinds of dealers.

“Regularly updating inventory levels on dealer sites, as well as third-party sites, is critical information for vehicle shoppers,” Price pointed out.

“The research shows that shoppers frequently want to see side-by-side vehicle comparisons and vehicle pictures,” he went on to say. “They also are looking for current specials and discounts. Driving prospects into the showroom from the website is essential to winning business in today's Internet-oriented vehicle shopping environment.”

Additional information about the study can be found at http://www.polk.com/knowledge/pv25.


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