Driving Consumers Through the Digital Car Shopping Journey

Anyone who has ever bought a car will agree the car buying journey can be a long and arduous process. On average, consumers spend 109 days (over three months!) looking for their next vehicle. Long story short - it’s exciting, but also exhausting.

Digital has certainly helped consumers with research in the car-buying process, but it has also added to the chaos and noise that over-complicates this process. In one car-buying experience documented by Google, a consumer had more than  900 digital interactions over a three-month period. Add that to the daily online experience a consumer navigates, and it’s easy to see how the process becomes fragmented.

A search for insights in this over-saturated environment can leave a shopper with more questions than answers. Everyone is jockeying for position, trying to be louder than the person next to them. Searchers visit third party sites and peruse reviews, while being hit with ads from manufacturers and dealerships, finance offers, group promotions, and countless other messages. It becomes noise, and the consumer is left frustrated.

Want to provide your shoppers with a clearer path to purchase? See how your brand can be discovered in the digital shopping journey:

Be the Calm in the Storm.

How does any one brand or dealership rise above the fray? Imagine walking into a dealership with the hopes of purchasing a new vehicle only to be bombarded with promotional signs, pop-up tents, and debris so scattered that you can’t even make your way from the parking lot to the door. You wouldn’t have that be the in-person experience and you certainly shouldn’t do it online.

We are clearly in the age of mobile yet it still seems to be overlooked when dealerships are creating and optimizing sites. 60% of the car buying journey is digital, and since a majority of that time is spent on a mobile device, you want to make sure you’re providing an easy experience across all devices. This is the first impression with a customer - don’t mess it up.

Embrace Automation

Remember that automation is your friend, and ignoring it can be a costly mistake. Digital gives consumers more information when researching vehicles but it also opens the door for more interactions. This massive amount of data that can be overwhelming to even the best data scientists. Allow automation to help you gain insights and patterns into the actions of your key consumer audience and you’ll quickly gain more accurate insights. There’s no reason to wait months to determine targeting or which message won out in you A/B test. If you commit to leveraging this data in an efficient way you will quickly see the savings, allocating your marketing dollars only when and where you need to.

Think Cohesiveness versus Competition.

Once your site is optimized for the consumer experience and using automation for a smarter and more effective campaign you should start to think about the UX for car shoppers before they get to your site. 3 out of 4 smartphone owners turn to search first to address their immediate needs and its imperative to have a strategy. Consider the 30,000 foot view. What does the search result page (SERP) look like in its entirety? Moreover take into consideration the consumer’s point of view. A dealership doesn’t have to be at odds with the OEM. There is no reason to shout louder.  The consumer expects to see both the brand and a local dealership when they search the make and model of a car. There is added value of both relevance and authority when a dealership's text ad is displayed below the paid ad from the OEM… and their Google My Business listing in the right-hand rail… and their reviews and results below in the organic listings.

Turns out, the way to win the car buying search game is to improve the journey for consumers. You achieve both with a search and digital strategy that provide a cohesive and calming experience for searchers. Be the destination, the harbor safe from the storm. That’s what I call a win-win.