Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Media launches car buyer research

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Media

I was a guest of Wiliam client, The Alto Group at a lunch last Friday, hosted by Fairfax Digital CEO David Kirk.

The lunch was to launch research undertaken by Drive, The Sydney Morning Herald's (and The Age's) Friday and Saturday car classifieds section, and Fairfax Digital's online car classifieds search engine. Drive has been a consistent second to in respect to online visitors and pages, though combining both print and online users, is Australia's largest vehicle classifieds. They were particularly keen to push this point as you would imagine.

The research itself was conducted by Blue Moon Research, and while comprehensive and no doubt well conducted, nonetheless presented as a thinly veiled sales presentation for Drive.

Not that it was expected, though the research was in no way ground-breaking, effectively providing affirmation of much of what is known or assumed by many automotive dealers, or at least those I talk to. This said, there research presented some excellent numbers and clearly articulated the new and used car buying process.

What was particularly disappointing was Drive's combination of the results of online and print (newspaper) as if they were part of the same family. Drive were reluctant to separate the newspaper and online numbers during the presentation, if at all; print (newspapers) has been consistently dropping in the face of online and it is convenient only for Drive to confuse and combine the numbers.

Most of the lunch attendees were from the major dealership groups and while the lunch did not at all centre on car dealership websites or online marketing, there were some important points to be considered from the perspective of dealer websites and dealer online marketing. I'll summarise these considerations after outlining the key findings of the research and lunch.


Interesting findings from the research

Here they are, in parts reprinted exactly as presented in the research; I asked the permission of two Fairfax Digital executives to reprint the material.

  1. 74% of people looking to buy a new car utilised the Internet for research.

    46% of people utilised a newspaper, and 30% of people utilised both.

  2. According to the research, there are five distinct stages in the vehicle buying process, for both new and used cars. I have reproduced these below, exactly as presented by Drive.

    Stage 1: Deciding that a car needs to be purchased

    Buyer Behaviour

    1. Need is indentified
    2. Buyer Begins Process
    3. Starts to build a possible consideration set
    4. Buyer builds on all previous brand experiences as well as word of mouth

    The Key Decision Influences

    1. Brand Advertising and reviews in:
    2. Newspaper
    3. Internet
    4. Magazines
    5. TV

    Stage 2: Deciding which category of vehicle to buy (large, hatchback, 4wd etc)

    Buyer Behaviour

    1. Buyers will visit the largest number of dealers at this stage as they are assessing all their options
    2. Seek a broad range of ads, articles and advice
    3. Trying to become as informed as possible

    The Key Decision Influences

    1. Newspaper
    2. Internet
    3. Auto Associates
    4. Dealers
    5. Magazines
    6. TV

    Stage 3: Deciding which make and model from the category chosen

    Buyer Behaviour

    1. Seeking reliable and independent reviews
    2. Looking for vehicle comparisons
    3. Range of sources narrows

    The Key Decision Influences

    1. Newspaper
    2. Internet
    3. Auto Associates
    4. Word of Mouth

    Stage 4: Determining best price and dealer for make and model chosen

    Buyer Behaviour

    1. Looking to compare dealership prices and value-add services
    2. Seeking a central place to compare a variety of dealerships quickly
    3. Detail on chosen vehicle

    The Key Decision Influences

    1. Dealer ads in:
    2. Newspapers
    3. Internet

    Stage 5: Purchase the Vehicle

    - Research showed that at this stage 25% of all people who enter a dealership will purchase a vehicle.

  3. During Stage One, positive word-of-mouth is essential.

    Drive gave the example of including a positive testimonial in any advertising, affirming the quality of service and after-sale care.

  4. By Stage Four of the buying process, customers looking for a new car visited on average, 5 dealerships.

    By Stage Four of the buying process, customers looking for a used car visited on average, 6 dealerships.

    By Stage Four of the buying process, new car customers travelled an average distance of 11.2km to their chosen dealerships while used car customers were prepared to travel over twice this distance at 22.9km.

    By Stage Four of the buying process, new car customers spent an average of 15.8 weeks looking for a new car, while used car customers spent considerably less time, at 13.9 weeks.

    By Stage Four of the buying process, new car customers had an average budget of AUD$37,892 while the average budget for a used car customer was approximately half that amount, being, AUD$17,500.

  5. The top ten motivators influencing the purchase of a new or used car were as follows:

    1. Fuel Economy/Environmental (45%)
    2. Reliability (54%)
    3. Brand has a good reputation (36%)
    4. Price/Value for money (36%)
    5. Performance/Engine Power (29%)
    6. Safety (28%)
    7. Exterior Appearance (25%)
    8. Riding and Driving Comfort (19%)
    9. Inexpensive to Service/Repair (17%)
    10. Internal Space (14%)

  6. As people moved through the buying process, they became more likely to want a new car whereas used car buyers decreased “dramatically”.

Dealer website considerations

From the research, dealers might consider the following enhancements to their websites.

  1. Specifically address those customers financing their vehicles.

    The sticker price must obviously be displayed, though displaying the average weekly and monthly finance cost, as well as an easily accessed finance calculator that does not obstruct the vehicle browsing process will greatly improve the user experience (remember, the primary requirement of the customer at this point is to determine what vehicles are available, though equally, the customer should not be sent to the other side of the website to find a calculator).

    Dealers are often nervous about displaying interest rates and finance figures, so if this is one step too far, consider at least allowing the customer to put in their own interest rate; in any event, the customer will want an approximate finance figure.

  2. Support sales staff to promote the dealer website.

    Users are likely to access the dealer website in any event (and probably already have); so often, sales staff operate only in the world of the car yard and are reluctant to use their website as part of the sales process, let alone refer customers to it.

    Customers will be impressed where the sales person has knowledge of the dealer website and its specific benefits to the customers. Similarly, the website can be used to support the objectives of the salesperson; selling the car. Customers are very savvy these days, especially according to the research.

    A few dealers I know already conduct training for their sales staff and have experienced positive results.

  3. Sell the dealership.

    Promote the unique benefits of the dealership; customer service, vehicle service, experience, whatever – the research clearly shows customers bouncing from dealership to dealership, and differentiation is an obvious way to be remembered.

  4. Provide relevant website tools and content to customers.

    If customers leave dealerships clutching brochures and quotes, why not support this behavior online.

    Allow customers to print, save and send every page of the website. If customers are looking at new cars, also show them demonstrators and used cars; Alto Mitsubishi (See Mitsubish Lancer Example) does this particularly well.

    Consider developing relevant content such as Why buy from us? and The Top Ten Tips for buying a new car etc. Go further, and consider content such as Buying a first car for your teenager? We show you how.

I can think of many others, though this is a reasonable start.