“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 car dealership to buy a new minivan. 


This particular trip was less shopping and 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  exactly what we wanted by 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.” 


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 during their auto consumer journey, 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 auto shopper is delaying visits to the dealership. eMarketer documented this shift in a 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.”  


That was back in 2015. Based on our own first-party research in 2018 with consumers who had purchased a vehicle in the past 2 years 51% of auto shoppers actively research for 1 – 3 months ahead, and 21% begin their research 3 – 5 months prior. People in-market to buy a new or used vehicle are also looking across a wide array of online platforms over the course of their auto consumer journey: search, dealerships websites, consumer review site, third-party auto sites and social media. Auto shoppers are focused on vehicle reliability, price and affordability for the top 2 factors. Tied at third are safety records and ratings and dealership reputation and service.


Although traditional media and old-fashioned word-of-mouth still play a role in the auto 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 throughout the auto consumer journey. 


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 car shoppers are using throughout the auto consumer journey. However, understanding each of these 24 touch points and the role they play in your objectives strengthens your chances for success. 


By knowing what marketing and advertising tactics can best reach auto shoppers along the way, you can maximize your marketing budget with more efficient ad spend and more precise audience targeting. LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE is a leader in automotive marketing. We have insights into the automotive buyer 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 automotive marketing solutions and marketing masterminds to bolster your presence in the auto consumer journey and drive more sales. 


Contact us today for a Dealer Scorecard consultation to get the conversation started.