How Your Customers are Researching Cars (And Why You Need to Know)

April 2024

We don’t need to tell you that customers aren’t going straight into dealerships on a whim for a wander around the forecourt anymore. As part of a wider pattern of shifting consumer behaviour, people are spending much more time researching their next vehicle online at home, long before they even think about setting foot in a dealership. 

Whilst this might seem like something you can do nothing about, there are many ways in which this can actually benefit a dealership, but understanding where and why customers are spending so much time online is the first step to leveraging this for your benefit.

How long are customers taking to find their next vehicle?

It seems that consumers are taking longer than ever to commit to large purchases. The number of days that your customers are spending researching their next purchase has grown in recent years, rising from 42 days in 2021 to 50 days in 2024. In fact, when asked, almost 4 in 10 active car searchers (42%) expect to spend as much as six weeks searching for their next car before they even set foot in a dealership. 

During this period, potential buyers turn to a variety of online resources to gather information, including manufacturer sites, social media, video sharing platforms and more. Identifying what you can do to put your business in front of customers during this time will be crucial to holding on to leads and potentially converting them into a sale.

Whether it’s improving your vehicle ads, your social media content or getting into the habit of using video, this quick guide will help you identify what customers are looking for online, and what we can do to help. 

Where are customers researching?

Manufacturer and Dealer Websites
Manufacturer websites provide in-depth information about various models, specifications, and features. Consumers often start their journey here, seeking a comprehensive understanding of their vehicle options. 

Social Media Platforms
Social media has become a powerful tool for influencing purchasing decisions. Consumers engage in discussions, seek recommendations, and explore user-generated content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X.

In 2023, 82% of everything that happened on the internet was watching some form of video, and searches for ‘test drive’ videos on major video content platforms such as YouTube are up by 73% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This not only shows that consumers trust the opinions of independent reviewers, but are drawn to more in-depth reviews and vehicle tours. 

Online Forums and Communities
Enthusiasts and potential buyers alike participate in forums such as Reddit or specialised automotive communities to share experiences, seek advice, and gain insights from fellow consumers.

How can you use this information to improve sales?

Establish a Strong Online Presence
Investing in a user-friendly, informative website is the first, and most crucial, step to establishing a strong online presence. Detailed vehicle listings, clear vehicle images, easy navigation and competitive pricing are key elements to capture potential buyers. For example, we offer an AutoTrader valuation tool to help you set competitive price points, image editing capabilities to improve your stock images and even an AI-enhanced vehicle description writer capable of producing comprehensive vehicle descriptions for you in a few clicks! 

Engage with Social Media
Actively participating in social media conversations allows you to build relationships with your customers. Providing helpful information, responding to enquiries, and showcasing the dealership’s personality can foster trust, and make consumers feel like part of the community, rather than just another sale. If you need some social media support, why not try out Autopromotor Social, and feed your stock directly to the platform?

Video Content is King
As we mentioned before, almost three quarters of all internet activity is watching a video. Incorporating video into your social media or website content is a great way to capture and keep user attention. Try looking into making videos about your offerings, even about your stock. No time for this? Check out our automated video option here, and let us handle it! 

Utilise Online Advertising
Online advertising such as Google Vehicle Ads, PPC and social media can effectively reach potential buyers. By utilising the powerful targeting capabilities of platforms like Google and Facebook, you can increase awareness of your brand, and showcase your stock to people who may not have engaged with you before. If you want to know more about what digital advertising can do for you, read more about our marketing options here.

Use Customer Reviews
Positive online reviews enhance a dealership’s reputation. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews on Google, Facebook and TrustPilot and address negative feedback promptly to demonstrate commitment to customer satisfaction. With a Spidersnet website, you can choose to add dynamic reviews, meaning all your great customer reviews can be featured automatically on your website.

No time for marketing? Let us handle it

We can provide digital marketing solutions to suit every goal and every budget. From SEO packages, to Facebook Automotive Inventory Ads, and now Google Vehicle Ads, talk to us today about your goals and we can help turn them into a reality.