Study: Dealers can overcome car buyer time in market decline by connecting online early


Dealers should direct their attention to reaching online car shoppers as early as possible and enhancing their in-store experience to best navigate United States consumers’ car-buying behavior, says a recent study.

With car buyers spending a total of four less days in market for a car compared to last year, dealers have less to time to reach new consumers, according to the Cox Automotive "2018 Car Buyer Journey Study".

The study suggests that dealers who want to remain competitive can close more deals by being accessible online and ready to help car buyers when they walk in.

Only one in three car buyers know the specific vehicle they want to drive when they start shopping, according to research. And covering new versus used preferences, forty percent of new-car buyers considered new and used purchases, while 55 percent of used-car buyers considered both, the study showed. 

The time to influence and convert car shoppers begins online because that’s where they spend the majority of their shopping experience. In fact, car buyers who shop online spend 60 percent of their time on the web.

Third-party sites are the most-used site of any online resource; 78 percent of car buyers use sites like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, according to the study.

Interestingly, new buyers most often start their online research at a third-party site and end at a dealer website, while used buyers often start and end at third-party sites, according to the study.

Along with dealer websites being easy to search and consistent across devices, dealerships can provide a better experience to car buyers when their sites accurately reflect the pricing, incentives, services and amenities that are offered.

In addition to searching for vehicles, the most popular digital retailing activities are also researching trade-in values and incentives.

When asked to rate their satisfaction on a scale of one-10, car shoppers said test-driving process and interaction with salespeople were the most satisfying parts of the car buying journey. Seventy-seven percent of car buyers gave the test-driving process an 8-10 rating.

When it comes to interactions with the F&I department, satisfaction declined to just 59 percent. The typical car buyer in the U.S. spends more than three hours in the dealership during their experience. Most shoppers — 64 percent — shared that the financing and paperwork took longer than they expected, according to the study.

Car buyers who were dissatisfied with how long the process took said that negotiations and financing/paperwork were the top two areas that took longer than they expected.

While past in-store dealership experiences may not have been ideal for some car buyers, more buyers are purchasing from dealerships where they have previous experience. The amount of buyers visiting multiple dealerships has been declining, and the rate is 59 percent this year. Just two years ago, the percentage was 66 percent.

The seventh annual study was commissioned by Cox Automotive through IHS Markit and is based on a survey of over 2,000 recent car buyers.

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