Win Automotive Shoppers BEFORE They Arrive on Your Lot

How the Consumer Journey has become key in reaching the right audience. Posted on Monday, January 26 in Reaching The Right Audience.

“We’re about to make some salesman’s day.”

Those were the words my wife said to me as we were driving to a local dealership to buy a new minivan.

This particular trip was less shopping more like a mission. We had already spent months thoroughly researching brands, reading reviews and shopping for prices. We knew all of the various trim levels, colors and even the value of our trade-in. There would be no need for a salesman to show us all of the cool features inside, lift the hood or kick the tires. We were ready to bypass walking the lot in favor of sitting down to sign the paperwork.

“The easiest sale this salesman has had in a month,” we said.

That was 2010. As our family needs changed and the thought of a minivan entered our minds, we began to research to exactly what we wanted using the tools that were already a part of our everyday live. We built and customized our exact model on OEM sites. We read reviews online. We solicited advice from friends. We shopped for best prices across dealership websites and third-party listing sites like Cars.com. Whether at home or at work, and even on our smartphones while waiting in line for bagels, we spent countless hours researching and refining our final purchase decision.

We called it “A salesperson’s best friend.”

Google Think Auto Shoppers are doing more research than ever

Now, researchers have a better name for this process. It’s called “The Consumer Journey” and thanks to Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” study we are able to better understand what influences consumers’ decision to buy, and even more importantly, who to buy it from. Perhaps this research has no better importance than it does for automotive dealers and marketers.

Today’s auto shoppers use an average of 24 different research points in forming their decision on what to buy and where to buy it according to Google’s research. Consumers are being sold long before ever stepping foot on your lot. This is a major reason many dealerships are seeing a decrease in floor traffic but an increase in close ratio.

The modern shopper is delaying visits to the dealership. A recent eMarketer report titled “Auto Dealers 2015: The Opportunity for Revolution in Retail” cites research from Frank N. Magid Associates stating, “61% of buyers visit the dealership only when they are ready to make a final purchase decision. Furthermore, 53% of shoppers felt they knew more about vehicles than the salespeople thanks to research they had done.”

Borrell Associates Chart Digital Channels Dominate Info Sources in Car SearchAlthough traditional media and old fashioned word-of-mouth still play a role in the Consumer Journey, digital marketing tactics are the primary drivers in influencing today’s auto shopper. Research from Borrell Associates shows that two-thirds of automotive shopping research starts online. Consumers are most likely to use dealer and manufacturer websites but are also very likely to use search engines and review sites.

A lot has changed since that day in 2010 when my wife and I set out to become a “salesman’s best friend.” For starters, I have embraced the minivan, even if it does deduct points from my coolness factor. More importantly, rapid changes in consumer behaviors and technology are disrupting the traditional approach to automotive marketing.

Very few, if any, dealerships have large enough marketing budgets and resources to win at all 24 touch-points today’s auto shoppers are using. However, understanding each of these 24 touch points and the role they play in your objectives strengthens your chances for success.

Courier-Journal Media is a leader in automotive marketing. We have insights into the local automotive landscape. We know what is being bought. We know who is buying it. We know what makes them tick. We have a full suite of proven integrated solutions – including traditional and digital – and marketing masterminds to bolster your presence in the Consumer Journey and drive sales.


Courier-Journal Media Client Strategy Director Tommy SpaldingTommy Spalding is Director of Client Strategy at Courier-Journal Media. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter
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