It’s got to be frustrating for dealers to see a competitor’s sticker on a vehicle that has a temporary license plate, likely signaling a recent delivery. And surely consumers aren’t pleased when they can’t purchase the vehicle they want at a cost they can afford.
In an effort to find solutions to reduce instances of both of those scenarios, Jumpstart Automotive Media on Tuesday announced a joint study with research firm, Ipsos, titled, “Today’s Auto Buyer and the Digital Retailing Experience.”
The report looks at points of view from both the consumer and the dealer to better understand the shopping journey, and how and where digital and mobile strategies have changed the consideration, negotiation and buying processes. While recognizing that the vehicle-buying process still carries an air of frustration and distrust, the goal of the research is to identify opportunities to make the buying process more satisfying all around.
Jumpstart commissioned Ipsos to conduct a comprehensive study into the consumer and dealer points of view. The study design included qualitative research consisting of a five-day online discussion with 28 U.S. consumers, a four-day online discussion with 28 dealers and nine 60-minute phone interviews with dealership GMs and owners. Following these results, quantitative research was conducted in the form of online surveys of 263 recent buyers, in-market or intending car shoppers, and 54 dealership employees.
How consumers select a dealership
The first disconnect the study revealed was in perceptions about how consumers select a dealership. Dealers’ perceptions were that their reputations and prior positive experiences are what bring consumers in the door.
However, study orchestrators found the most influential factors in consumers’ selection of a dealership are, by far, a low price and having the right inventory.
In fact, consumers were almost twice as likely as dealers to identify the “lowest price” as the more influential between those two factors. Consumers came in at 49 percent, while dealers registered at 24 percent.
Where shopping and research begins
The study indicated consumers spend an average of nine hours researching online before walking into a dealership, visiting an average of seven automotive sites, including manufacturer, dealer and third-party websites.
But dealer websites are far more influential than even dealers themselves perceive, according to the findings.
While dealers assume that consumers start their research on other sites, visiting the dealer website closer to the purchase, customers surveyed commonly stated that they use the dealer website very early in their shopping process.
Closing the gap on price differences
The study noted that perhaps the biggest difference between dealer perceptions and consumer realities is in negotiating the sale price.
While consumers prefer to do the majority of fact-finding online, the study pointed out that face-to-face communication becomes increasingly important to them at the end of the process. Three quarters (76 percent) of consumers think they will get a better price by negotiating in person as opposed to online.
That doesn't mean they like negotiating. Nor do dealers, according to the study.
Jumpstart and Ipsos determined this is one area where dealers and consumers misunderstand each other. Nine out of 10 consumers had at least some interest in a “no-haggle” model for vehicle buying, while dealers hate price haggling but feel customers expect it. Both sides would like to streamline the transaction process.
The report shed further light on the tension and differences of what's considered a “fair price.”
The study noted that 81 percent don’t believe a dealer’s “lowest price” and still expect to be able to negotiate savings of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
At the same time, the report acknowledged customers may not understand how vehicles are priced, which can lead to distrust and frustration.
“The art of a successful car deal is aligning customer desires, such as a fair price and a smooth, quick transaction, with dealer expectations that leverage their solid reputations,” said Libby Murad-Patel, vice president marketing and strategic insights for Jumpstart.
“This report goes into great detail in the motivations and beliefs of both sides, while offering actionable strategies for dealers to attract and better serve today’s auto buyers,” Murad-Patel added.
Michael Baer, senior vice president at Ipsos, added, “Like every other industry we study, digital content and communications have fundamentally altered the auto buying/selling process.
“Consequently, the dealership experience is completely changed from what it once was — consumers are visiting fewer of them, are doing their research in advance and are visiting them better prepared for negotiations,” Baer went on to say.
“There’s an emerging need for dealers/manufacturers to re-think and re-design the dealership experience and the role of dealers and salespeople to better fit consumers’ needs and expectations,” he said.
The entire report can be accessed via this website.