Why Your Dealership's Online Presence Matters in the Car-buying Journey

Kimberly Vo, Customer Training Manager

January 06, 2020

According to Millward-Brown, 85-90 percent of auto shoppers conduct online research before deciding to make a car purchase. These shoppers begin their process on review sites and search engines before checking out the brand’s website and heading to the dealership. On average, the research process lasts about four months with the last month having the most activity. The last month is when the shopper begins checking manufacturer and dealership websites. As these shoppers are doing their research, their decision in choosing their desired vehicle falls on five key auto micro-moments: which car is the best, is it right for me, can I afford it, where should I buy it, and am I getting a deal? We will be going over why it is crucial that your car dealership’s online presence matters in the car shoppers’ journey especially in the earlier stages (Think with Google).

Five Key Auto Micro-Moments

1. "Which car is best?" moments

Six out of ten car shoppers enter the market unsure of which car to buy and often rely on websites, forums, or blogs for research. Similar to Google’s first key micro-moment, Cox Automotive’s 2019 Car Buying Journey study has also noted that shoppers are often in the explore stage and exploring third-party websites and looking at several top ten vehicles lists at the beginning of their research. These lists include car features, the type of vehicle (SUV, sedan, truck, etc.) recommended, and show the type of vehicle they may be most interested in. After seeing if they’re interested in a vehicle, the shopper may continue to research further into the manufacturer through videos and the manufacturer’s website. During this step of exploration, shoppers also watch review videos of these vehicles. 

Increasingly over the years, users are starting to turn to YouTube for review videos. In fact, Google notes that 69% of shoppers who watched car review videos were influenced by it. As a result of viewing these videos, potential car purchasers who are interested in a vehicle have been using online video platforms to look for the best vehicle. With these proven statistics, your dealership’s next step is figuring out how to make your presence available to these viewers when they’re looking for the “best” vehicle.

One way to ensure that your dealership is visible to these viewers is by showing advertisements and having your dealership show up in advertisements. Some of the common search terms for shoppers in these moments include: “[brand/make] + reviews,” “[brand/make] + specs,” and “best luxury cars.” These car shoppers are using both search engines and YouTube to look for reviews and the best type of car. To have your dealerships show up under these search results, you can make sure to bid on keywords that would match these results on Google Ads. You can also implement strategies for search engine optimization so that your dealership’s website has a higher SEO ranking. As a result, your website will be more visible to shoppers who are typing in specific search terms. You could also place short video advertisements on automotive YouTube videos and channels to increase your online presence. Another method that may require a bit more work is contacting popular automotive YouTube channels and asking them to review the vehicle and its features. The next step in the car-buying journey is deciding if the vehicle will fit their lifestyle. 

2. "Is it right for me?" moments

Does your dealership offer videos that highlight the different trims, styles, and features of the vehicle? If not, you should consider creating videos showcasing your vehicles. Many shoppers prefer watching videos that include an in-depth review of vehicles along with a test drive to help them determine if that vehicle fits their needs and lifestyle.

Orbee’s partnership with Cartender, an automotive marketing technology company, allows the creation of videos that include highlights of the vehicle. These videos are short and simple because their purpose is for advertising. But if you want people to learn more about your dealership and the vehicles that you have to offer, you can create in-depth videos. These videos should include the different features and options, a test drive of the vehicle, and a walkthrough of the exterior and interior of the vehicle. 

In this auto micro-moment, shoppers are in the “consider” stage. By this stage, they are considering to purchase this car, and will be making decisions based on whether or not it fits their lifestyle. Shoppers have also been increasing their image search of vehicles on search engines, which should convince dealership websites to include detailed photos of the exterior, interior, and special features of the vehicle that make it stand out. After the shopper decides that the vehicle fits their lifestyle, the next step is to see if they can afford it.

3. "Can I afford it?" moments

Google found that the search for vehicle MSRP and listing prices have increased by 25% year-over-year along with a 70% increase in mobile searches. After the shopper has decided on the vehicle they want, they want to know if they can afford the vehicle. This is very important to note because you should make sure that your website shows up on search engine results. You can do this by either ensuring that your website is optimized for the search engine results, or that your keyword bidding places you at the top of the search results. 

Your dealership can also choose to send website retargeting emails to your shoppers. These emails can be sent to your shoppers once they’ve provided their email. Website retargeting emails send your shoppers a reminder of their recently viewed vehicles along with the price and VDPs they viewed. We can also help you set up emails for your shoppers if there was a price drop or if the vehicles are selling quickly, and there are only a few left in your inventory. With these emails, your shoppers receive a small reminder of the vehicle they were looking at along with price drops. Shoppers may want to wait for a good deal before purchasing a car, and these emails provide them with what they’re waiting for.

To make your shopper’s experience on your website more personalized, you can also offer personalized advertisements using on-site and off-site advertisements along with personalized pop-up offers. To do this you can retarget your customers based on the vehicles they’ve viewed and serve them advertisements of these vehicles. By understanding their online activity, you could also serve them an advertisement for a special offer if they’re a bargain shopper or looking for a deal on a lease. 

In the third stage of the car-buying journey, shoppers are selecting their vehicles. In this stage, they know which car they want to purchase, but they need to make sure that it is affordable. Some shoppers may take this time to wait for an affordable price or an incentive that will get them the best price.  Once the shopper knows that the vehicle is in their price range, the next step is deciding where to purchase it.

4. "Where should I buy it?" moments

The next key moment is, “Where should I buy it?” In this stage, shoppers are looking for a car dealership that is close by and determining if they want to go to that dealership based on customer reviews. 1 in 3 shoppers are using their mobile devices to call and locate a car dealership, and the search term “car dealerships near me” is doubling year over year. Furthermore, shoppers are using desktops during the week and their mobile devices on the weekend. So what does this mean for your dealership?

To ensure the best online experience for your shoppers, you need to establish your online presence. Google My Business offers a free business profile on Google Search and Google Maps for your dealership. This allows your dealership to be shown on the search results and map results when shoppers type in brand dealerships near me. You can also add your store hours, website, phone number, and the best way to contact your dealership. 

Your Google My Business account also displays reviews from customers, which is another factor that your customers may consider looking at before coming to your dealership. If your customers had a great experience at your dealership, be sure to mention leaving a positive review. Yelp is another review site that is often used to determine whether your shopper will choose to purchase a vehicle at your dealership or at a different one. 

Because shoppers are using both desktop and mobile devices to research dealerships, you need to ensure that their experience on your website is seamless. This means that your dealership should make sure your website is easily accessible to users on both mobile and desktop. Some image files should be resized for mobile devices. If your customer attempts to view your website using a mobile device on a cellular network and it loads the desktop version of the site, it won’t load quickly enough. This can cause your customers to leave your website before having the opportunity to find what they intended to look for.

The fourth key auto micro-moment and the fourth step in the car buying journey both coincide because at this point, the shopper is trying to find the right dealership to buy their vehicle. Your job is to help your potential customers make their way to the dealership. They want to buy the car they want which leads to ownership. 

5. "Am I getting a deal?" moments

The last key moment that your shopper looks for is whether or not they are getting a good deal on that vehicle. Half of car shoppers with mobile devices use their smartphones at dealerships to check if they are getting a good price for their vehicle. One commonly used website is Kelley Blue Book. Kelley Blue Book is a shoppers’ most trusted pricing website for both new and used vehicles, and if the dealership’s price is not close to what this website is valuing for the vehicle, there may be a chance that your shopper will choose to go to a dealership that does offer that pricing.  

In this day of age, people have their smartphones on them at all times and will often use it for research while at the dealership. Because Kelley Blue Book is often used to determine whether their car of interest is within their budget, it is important for your dealership to ensure that your car prices are relatively close to those in Kelley Blue Book and for your dealership to explicitly include any additional fees and taxes that may be applied to the car. After finding a good deal from a dealership, the final step in the car-buying journey is owning the car. 

Conclusion

As a dealership, it is important to understand the car buying journey from the perspective of a shopper. Year over year, the use of digital tools are increasing due to technology. Shoppers are beginning to do most of their shopping using the internet, social media, and video platforms. In knowing the five key auto micro-moments, it is imperative for your dealership to include these tips to help your shopper have the best online experience before stepping into your showroom. As you follow these steps, you should think about how your dealership can meet the needs of your shoppers.