As the fastest growing segment of the new-car market, Gen-Y shoppers are reshaping perception about how dealerships reach and influence car buyers, according to J.D. Power’s 2013 New Autoshopper StudySM. The study, which analyzed over 17,000 new-car buyers and lessees, gives new insight into the way cross-platform shopping affects new-car buying decisions and highlights the growing role online research plays in dealership selection.

Key Takeaways

Digital Research Impact

  • Digital research has been a increasing factor in dealership selection (+67%) and vehicle selection (+23%) since 2008
  • More than one-third (34%) of new-car buyers perform research using multiple devices
  • Almost all new-car buyers (98%) visit manufacturer sites during their shopping process; 83% visit dealer sites; and 80% visit third-party sites. Only a few (7%) involve social media sites in their shopping process.
  • New-car buyers more frequently indicate that third-party (54%) and manufacturer (52%) websites are “very helpful” during the new-vehicle shopping process

A multi-screened world

According to the study, 34 percent of all new-car buyers report using multiple devices to make their vehicle purchase decision – including 47% of all new-car buyers accessing or the app.

Moreover, shoppers increasingly indicate that mobile car shopping is not restricted by their environment. Using smartphones and tablets, shoppers are accessing vehicle content everywhere from the supermarket checkout line to at home while watching TV, as well as on the dealership lot. While nearly 50% of shoppers report using their smartphone device while on the dealership lot, the study shows that mobile shopping is not just an on-the-lot shopping activity. shoppers are beginning to do preliminary research via a smart device a week earlier than they did in 2012 – approximately 4.5 months prior to purchase – and physically visiting dealerships approximately one week later. The extended timeline reinforces the notion that shoppers are making more of their decisions about which vehicle to buy, and where to buy from, online, before visiting a dealership.

Connecting OEM, Third-Party and Dealership content

Ratings Reviews - Dealers per site type

Similar to the way car shoppers use different devices throughout their shopping process, new-car buyers use a mix of different websites to gather information before purchase. While nearly all new car-purchasers visit an OEM website, 80% or more also turn to third-party and dealership sites. On third-party sites, shoppers frequently seek out reviews for vehicles, as well as information about special offers, pricing and photos. And much like third-party sites, new-car buyers use dealer websites to search inventory and access dealer contact information. Because of this, having a consistent, positive presence across all sites can help influence new-car buyers as they make their buying decision.

With the U.S. economy stabilizing and average vehicle age at a record high, J.D. Power projects new-vehicle sales to continue to rise, reaching approximately 17 million units per year by 2017.

How is your dealership planning to adapt its marketing efforts to adapt to new-car shopper behavior? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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