Every month, we reach out to visitors of Cars.com for insights into their experiences.  These insights help us at Cars.com stay connected to consumers to ensure we are always in tune with their wants and needs and can better improve results for dealers.

We consistently ask Cars.Com visitors what their top suggestions are for improving their visit as well as what the reason is for their visit.  A key suggestion over the past six months was that of requiring multiple pictures and all vehicle specifications to be filled out on VDPs so the consumer can be fully informed of vehicle offerings¹.  Ever since we began receiving this feedback, we have worked with dealers to fully fill out all merchandising on their vehicles and include interior and exterior photos.  However, in October we saw fewer suggestions asking for this, which we think is likely driven by dealers acting on this feedback, which is always to their benefit.

Another key takeaway is the stock type searched as well as consumer behavior for searching for that stock type.  The majority of visitors who are looking for cars for sale are coming to Cars.com to look for used inventory (83%) and are researching car pricing (55%) and comparing cars (54%) in which they are interested¹.

This is interesting when considering the current state of the consumers shopping journey.  Over half of consumers in their initial vehicle research or shopping phases are considering a used vehicle².  As they progress through the shopping process, they go back and forth between consideration of new and used vehicles².  This leaves opportunity for dealers to get to know consumers when they show on the lot to research, learn more, or test drive a vehicle.  Asking questions surrounding their consideration set can help dealers influence car shoppers.

In this same study, we found that a third of car shoppers ended up actually purchasing a used vehicle – down from over half².  So, while consumers initially search for used inventory, shoppers tend to buy up with new vehicle consideration increasing as shoppers move closer to purchase — half of used car shoppers consider CPO².

We also want to take a look at what consumers think about service and repair, and how they are choosing to engage with Cars.com on the subject.  In the below graph (Figure 1), we can see that consumers were mostly looking for reviews and price estimates of repairs.  Respondents looking for diagnostic repair codes increased by 10 percent over September 2016, while those looking for maintenance schedules and time estimates decreased by 10 percent month over month¹.

Figure 1. Voice of the Consumer, Cars.com, October 2016

Considering the features used most by consumers who are engaging with Service & Repair content is important as a lot of repeat business to dealerships come from the service lane — most service department customers have past experiences with the dealership where they originally purchased².

While this is positive to hear, growing the service lane is a great step in encouraging customer loyalty – an important consideration for consumers when they purchase a vehicle as they know servicing their vehicle will inevitably happen.

Encouraging this loyalty can be done by learning the barriers consumers must bust through to consider servicing their vehicle at the dealership.  This could be done by dispelling myths about the cost of repairs, the time necessary to have a repair completed, the transparency of the work done, and the quality of customer service³.  Addressing any concerns car shoppers have at the point of sale in regard to service can greatly benefit customer loyalty and reinforce their commitment to a specific dealership.

The voice of the consumer is important.  We want to provide them with the tools necessary to make an informed vehicle purchase and, in turn, provide dealers with the means to reach our audience and give car shoppers the experience they desire.  It’s understanding their wants and needs and where they are in their car shopping journey that isn’t always clear.  But, that means we will work harder to make it easier not just for car shoppers to find the right vehicle, but also for dealers to connect with car shoppers.

[1] Voice of the Consumer, Cars.com, October 2016
[2] Dealer Walk-Ins Analysis, Cars.com, March 2016
[3] Dealership Action Report, DealerSocket, October 2016