2014 was a year of auto marketing analysis. The year saw a rapid transition in consumer behavior as a result of increase in smartphone usage, mobile marketing techniques and evolving user demands. A J.D. Power auto shopper study elaborates on this change in trend and its impact on auto dealership marketing strategies.

The J.D. Power Study

There are some auto shoppers who buy online, but this contributes to a very small portion of the auto consumer market. A study published by J.D. Power reports that a majority of buyers who spend time researching online for a vehicle also visit a number of dealerships before making the investment.

This analysis is interesting as it helps to understand the behavior of automobile shoppers and shows a large divergence from retail shopping behavior. The study terms consumers who use the digital platform to gather information about automobiles as a part of their shopping routine as AUIs, an acronym for automotive Internet users.

What the statistics say

Marketing strategies in auto dealerships are largely built around past experience and speculation. The statistics derived from research would help in upgrading strategies for better performance in 2015. Here’s are the numbers:

  • 96% of AIUs use a desktop or laptop for online automotive research.
  • 30% of users browse on tablets while 28% use smartphones.
  • 80% of these shoppers visit a third-party website for information on price, review and ratings.
  • A majority of this population visits at least one brand website for accurate information.
  • AIUs spend more or less 14 hours online aggregating as much information they can find about a vehicle before making a purchase.
  • AIUs investing more than 12 hours visit an average of 3.3 auto dealerships before a buy.
  • Those who spend less than 5 hours visit an average of 2 dealers before making a purchase.

What AIUs are looking for

A surprising find was that 34% AIUs use smartphones or tablets for research while physically present at the dealership. Here’s a list of the top searches

  • 61% – Vehicle Pricing
  • 42% – Model Information
  • 40% – Inventory
  • 35% – Offers/Incentives

Of those who look up vehicle pricing, 84% leverage the information to negotiate with dealers. 73% of these shoppers said they obtained a better deal.

How dealers can leverage the trend

2014 has shown an escalation in online shopping, especially in the auto industry, while compared to the past records. In 2015, dealerships cannot solely rely on in-store and offline marketing strategies to attract and convert walk-in shoppers into buyers. As the trend shows, shoppers are looking for auto information online. This suggests that dealerships should also incorporate online marketing strategies to drive more footfalls. A few avenues to consider would include a unique website, SEO, social media marketing, online advertising, mobile marketing and mobile app development.