Understanding your customers’ buying journey

Every journey begins with one single step. Whether you’re on a trip to a far off holiday destination, or on the long, and sometimes arduous journey towards buying a new car, you have to begin somewhere far from where you need to be.

Often, the car buyer’s journey begins with a problem. As a motor dealer, you’re there to help solve that problem. In order to make this a possibility, it’s essential that you understand who your customers are, and how they are approaching the situation.


We’re now in the digital age, which means the way in which consumers buy cars has drastically changed over the last ten years or more.

Before the wholesale adoption of the internet, if you wanted to learn more about a vehicle, you would have to physically visit a dealership, garage, or showroom, where you’d reach out to a salesperson who would then provide you with their recommendations on vehicle types and brands. Today, the process isn’t nearly as long winded.

The majority of car buyers, in fact a whopping 70%, actually begin their journey online, at a search engine like Google. These consumers can thoroughly research the cars they need, without the necessity of ever contacting a sales team. When they do contact a sales person they are usually much closer to the point of purchase.

For car dealers, understanding the journey towards purchase is an important framework for creating a marketing strategy. Ensuring your dealership has all the answers to the buyers’ questions at each stage of the buying journey could work wonders for your automotive sales.


So how do buyers go from not even knowing what car they want, to being handed the keys by you at your dealership? The journey can be broken down into 3 stages:

1 – Awareness

This is the initial stage of their buying journey. At this point, they are likely to be unaware of two things – what car they need, and which dealerships to go to. For the customer this stage is all about research.

For 72% of buyers, they’ll turn to Google and explore options. They’ll then have an idea of a few brands they’d like and it’s here they’ll also look for educational material, customer reviews and testimonials. By the end of this stage they should have a clearer understanding of what car they want. But they might not know where to find it.

2 – Consideration

The consumer will now have their choices narrowed down to just a few makes and models, and might even know the specific car they want. It’s here they head back to Google to research where they can make their purchase, and who’s offering the best prices.

At this stage most vehicle consumers will be presented with third party automotive sales platforms such as Gumtree or Autotrader. Therefore as a dealer, feeding onto these sites is crucial. Customers will then shortlist a few independent dealerships, and may spend time visiting their websites, social media pages, and reading their reviews online.

3 – Decision

The time has come, the consumer now knows the exact car they want. The only thing holding them back is the final few questions they need to be answered. It’s down to you to answer their final questions. They want immediate answers, so make sure your website is designed to make communication easy. Have you got live chat? Are they able to call you instantly though a clickable number on your site? Does your website have enough information present to fill them in on details such as finance, warranties and part exchange offerings?


1 – Be the inspiration for their decision!

We know that most consumers begin their journey online, without knowing what car they want. During the research stage, they consume large amounts of content. According to statistics, video research is seen as the most popular and effective format for encouraging brand consideration. For car dealers it’s important to bear this in mind. Producing videos and posting them on social channels could help influence a customer’s decision to choose your brand and buy from you.

2 – Remember consumers don’t start at dealerships anymore

When researching, consumers are unlikely to begin at your dealership’s website. They will probably visit comparison sites, check prices, and compare user reviews first. In the UK 56% of new buyers most commonly begin at a third party site like Autotrader and then travel onto the individual dealership site.

The key takeaway from this is that it’s essential that automotive dealers have an extremely strong presence on third party sites both locally and nationally. Ensure you choose a website provider that has the technology to feed to as many car sales platforms as possible.

3 – Ensure your website provokes their final decision

When the time comes for them to land on your website, it’s essential that yours is better than your competitors’. Not only does its design need to leave a strong first impression, but it’s also important to remember that most people are very impatient. Therefore, your site needs to be very user-friendly and have all of the technical functionality to stop consumers going elsewhere. Your site should have the tools to make the consumer’s life easy, below are some of the key elements for automotive websites.

  • Fast website loading speed
  • HTTPS secure
  • Engaging and Informative content
  • Easy communication/live chat
  • Access to social channels
  • Strong imagery/videography
  • Customer reviews
  • Finance calculator integration
  • Mobile optimised
  • Easy to navigate
  • Plenty of useful written information on each page

4 – Carry out powerful digital marketing

Whether you opt for a website provider, or build your website independently, digital marketing is a crucial tool for automotive sales success.

Strong search engine optimisation (SEO), will ensure that car-buyers find your dealership in the search results pages of search engines.

To learn more about SEO be sure to read our car dealer’s introduction to SEO.

You may also wish to invest in paid media. By investing in paid media campaigns, carried out by digital marketing experts, you can target people searching for the stock you have, and cleverly introducing them to your dealership online. You may also wish to spend time on social media marketing, putting your dealership in front of your target audience on social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


Ultimately, the most important factor to consider is that customers are operating in an arena that’s becoming ever-more reliant on digital channels. It’s now a necessity to commit to integrating digital technologies and strategies into your business strategy, for the best chance to succeed. Make sure every part of the buyer’s journey is considered during your online set up, whether that be your website, social media channels or online marketing campaigns.