86 Percent Of Car Shoppers Conduct Research Online Before Visiting A Dealership

In the purchase journey, aggregate sites and local search matter more than marketers might assume.

Consumers don’t buy cars online, but that doesn’t mean the online experience isn’t central to the automotive purchase journey: Approximately 86 percent of car shoppers conduct online research before deciding to visit a local dealership, according to new research from digital marketing agency Adtaxi.

Similar research from Think With Google confirms this behavior: In fact, twice as many consumers reportedly start their research online versus at a dealer, presenting “a huge opportunity for brands and dealers to influence customers before they get to the store.”

TK percent of consumers have smartphones, and the fact that they conduct cross-device online research in every category isn’t a surprise. But in a vertical like automotive, where the purchase “moment of truth” continues to revolve around a physical space, it’s imperative for marketers to think about how search — particularly on mobile and via voice — influence buyers’ behavior in the real world.

Search Matters More

Knowing this, both local dealerships and brand manufacturers might then shift their attention to 1. their websites and 2. targeted mobile ads. And while location and behavior targeted ads (e.g. is someone near a dealership and have they searched for vehicles recently?) are important and effective at driving foot traffic, it behooves marketers to understand where online the auto purchase journey actually starts.

Per Adtaxi, the most common first step taken in the shopping process is visiting an aggregate site (32 percent), followed by using a search engine (30 percent) and visiting a local dealer’s website (24 percent). Visiting a brand manufacturer’s website is the first step for only 14 percent of shoppers.

As such, managing a digital presence (meaning correct information across aggregate sites, social media and more) is of paramount importance for auto marketers — as is ranking highly in text and voice-based search.

And so while deals will still continue to be closed on the floor, local dealerships can drive more foot traffic by prioritizing local SEO and developing a voice strategy sooner rather than later. After all, at least 76 percent of location searches result in a business visit within a day.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.