Social media use rises among car shoppers, but not overly influential

COSTA MESA, Calif. - 

More car shoppers are using social media during their search, but a small number find the information there to be particularly influential.

According to J.D. Power’s 2016 New Autoshopper Study, 22 percent of internet car shoppers use a social media site as a source during their search. That’s up from 16 percent in 2015.

But of those shoppers who use social media, only 13 percent said the information influenced their purchase decision, and just 2 percent said a social media site was the “most useful site” they visited.

“Social media plays a large role in many consumers’ lives, so it's not surprising that it’s one of the tools they're using during the vehicle-shopping process,” said Mike Battaglia, vice president, automotive retail at J.D. Power.

“While we would not expect social media sites to compete head-on with designated auto shopping sites like and Kelley Blue Book, it's easy to understand the role and relevance social plays in the automotive shopping process.”

The study analyzed how new-vehicle buyers use digital devices to gather information prior to purchase, as well as which websites and apps they use during the shopping process. The study also examined which types of content new-vehicle buyers access during their shopping process and which content they find most useful.

Details about social media use

According to the study, the most popular social media sites used by auto internet shoppers are YouTube (13 percent), DealerRater (7 percent) and Facebook (5 percent).

Thirty-four percent of new-vehicle buyers using social media post a picture of their new vehicle on a social site. Of those, 88 percent will post to Facebook, followed by Instagram at 21 percent.

“Social media platforms aren’t as useful as automotive shopping websites for automotive information, but they do serve the needs of consumers for unbiased dealer reviews, affirmations from other vehicle owners, accessing automotive-related videos and exchanging ideas and opinions with friends and family members,” said Battaglia.

Auto shopping websites still reign

Traffic to auto shopping websites outpaces that to social media sites among internet car shoppers. The study found that more than nine out of 10 visit at least one automaker’s site during the shopping process, while 84 percent visit a dealer site and 79 percent visit a third-party site.

On average, internet shoppers visit 10 automotive websites in their shopping process: four automotive manufacturer websites, three third-party websites and three dealership websites.

The most frequently accessed content on automotive shopping websites is model information (89 percent), vehicle pricing (88 percent) and photo galleries (81 percent).

But automotive internet shoppers find different types of sites more useful for different reasons. For example, they find that automotive brand sites are most useful for their model information, vehicle configurators and photo galleries, whereas dealer websites are found to be most useful for inventory searches, and vehicle pricing and third-party sites are most useful for vehicle ratings/reviews and vehicle comparisons.

Other key findings:

— More than half (53 percent) of automotive internet shoppers use a mobile device. For 2016, smartphone usage surpasses tablet usage (37 percent versus 33 percent, respectively). The use of desktop or laptop computers remains most common at 92 percent, but has been decreasing from 99 percent in 2012. But the proportion of time spent shopping on mobile devices continues to increase, with 33 percent of the total shopping time now conducted on a mobile device.

— The three most frequently visited third-party sites have remained consistent since 2012 (listed alphabetically): Consumer Reports, and Kelley Blue Book. Among the 37 third-party websites measured in the study, TrueCar experiences the largest increase in site visitation for a second consecutive year.

The 2016 New Autoshopper Study is based on responses from 17,349 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 to 2016 model-year vehicles who used information gathered digitally during the shopping process. The study was fielded from February through June.


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