Did you know the average driver buys a new(er) car every three years? But the way car buying used to work is nothing like it works today. Marketing and technology have drastically changed the modern car buying process. Here's how it used to work:
You need/want a new car. You drive to the nearest car dealership and walk around the lot trying to avoid the over-eager salesman with the usual brush-off, “I’m just looking, thanks!”You continue this process 17 more times until you find the car of your dreams that fits your budget of reality. You’re ready to purchase! After some back and forth negotiation you settle on a price and make a deal on your new car. You sit in the lounge area of the dealership waiting to sign paperwork. And you wait. You drink some coffee and eat some snacks. Then you wait some more. You finally finish up with the finance department and sign 59 pieces of paper and BAM! NEW CAR! Just like that, it only took three months from the day you stepped on the first car lot to start your car shopping process!
These days are over. The car-buying experience now begins online. A recent study by Accenture found that 80% of drivers seeking to purchase a new vehicle are using some form of digital technology to research their buying preferences and nearly two-thirds are starting the car-buying process online before visiting a dealership. Car shoppers visit an average of 18 different sites, including Google, online shopping networks, Facebook and other social networks, manufacturer and dealer websites.
According to a 2013 study by Google, 89% of purchasers are in-market for 3 months or less. And those in-market are now doing more research than ever, hitting 24 touch points on average, which includes both online and offline.
Customers visit an average of 1.9 dealerships before making a purchase, having done most of their shopping online.
Much of the shift in the car-buying process has been led by the emergence of the ever-elusive millennials and their fickle shopping habits. Millennials have been called “game changers” in the auto industry and are “the next big segment of car buyer who are defining the buying process.” By 2025, Gen Y is expected to account for 75% of all vehicles purchased. Even though that date is still 10 years away, the changes are already being made to cater to this segment.
So obviously it is crucial to have an engaging, intuitive, visual, and informative website. The digital realm has become the key (quite literally) to getting potential customers to the lot. It is important to be sure you have quality and easy-to-access, clear information on pricing, location, and contact info. Tailoring your message based on the outcome you are seeking by sending customers to custom landing pages rather than just the home page will help to re-enforce your message and increase the likeliness for a conversion or lead form submittal. You can have targeting that is on-point and send a large quantity of qualified traffic to your website, but if your site is not equipped to handle such traffic and turn into an actual lead, every digital tactic in the world would be a waste of your advertising dollars.
So in a nutshell: Millennials are leading the way in changing how we shop for cars and the online experience is paramount. Digital marketing is a great option for many retail establishments but you better make sure your house is clean, in-order and ready to entertain before you send out the invite for a dinner party.