The car buying customer journey is long and winding, with many speed bumps and sharp turns you have to navigate before you finally put pen to paper on the car of your dreams.
Buying a car is a significant investment – one of the biggest you can make. Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time and effort it takes to whittle down your list down to one.
With so many options at car shoppers’ fingertips, Customer Experience (CX) professionals face increased pressure to design positive, informative and memorable experiences that drive in-market shoppers to the dealership and turn customers and loyal brand advocates.
So, what is the key to designing these experiences? A lot of it comes down to knowing your customers, inside and out, wherever they are in the customer journey. Not only that, but understanding their needs, their expectations, their preferences, and especially their perceptions of your CX as they travel along their journey.
Let’s look at 16 key car buying customer journey statistics and quotes every Automotive CX professional can use to drive their CX strategies.
More and more of the car buying customer journey is spent online
95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information. This includes general searches, but especially online video.(1)
"Through online video, they’re now able to experience parts of the shopping journey that previously could only be done on the lot, including vehicle walkarounds, product demonstrations, and video test drives."(2)
Car buyers (both new and used) spend 61% of their time online when shopping/buying a vehicle.(3)
Only one in three car buyers know the exact vehicle they want to buy when they start the shopping process.(3)
Thanks to continuous advancements in technology, car shoppers nowadays can access nearly any type of information they need, wherever they are in the customer journey. It’s a luxury that car shoppers nowadays have, and naturally, one they are leveraging heavily throughout the customer journey.
Online sources of information especially come in handy at the research stages of the customer journey, not only to identify vehicles that meet the list of criteria you have in mind, but also to narrow your list down until you are ready to step into the dealership.
Think With Google did an interesting examination of one car shopper who leveraged online sources throughout the research stages of the car buying customer journey, which resulted in over 900 digital interactions.
The purchase horizon is getting shorter
Research from multiple sources shows that the purchase cycle for car shoppers takes a bit less than three months to complete:
Over two-thirds of US customers now spend less than three months and ten total hours to research their vehicle purchase.(4)
The purchase cycle for Canadian car shoppers is about 62 days, of which 17 of those are spent researching, 35 days of thinking, and ten days of buying.(5)
Car shoppers spend about 108 days in-market before they make a purchase.(3)
"This reduction in time researching vehicles only serves to highlight the importance of getting the digital experience right, helping to ensure the right content and shopping tools are available, and providing the customer with the right insights to move down the virtual funnel."(6)
With car shoppers now having easier access to the information they need than ever before, you can naturally expect they would need less time before putting pen to paper.
As pointed out in the quote from Dinsdale and Berdichevskiy above, this quick purchase cycle only increases the need for CX professionals to design experiences that help their brands stay top of mind for car shoppers. This means staying on top of what car shoppers need and expect at each step of the customer journey, and identifying opportunities where brands can elevate the experience to either drive people to the dealership, or reassure shoppers that they choose their brand.
Car shoppers’ expectations are getting harder to meet
55% of Automotive OEM websites met US consumer expectations in 2018.(4)
53% of Automotive dealer websites met US consumer expectations in 2018.(4)
61% of buyers rated their most recent purchasing/leasing experience as being either the same or worse than their previous experience.(7)
It’s hard to deny that we, as consumers, are spoiled. Technology has made us want access to anything, anytime we want. With Gartner reporting that 81% of marketers expect to be competing based on CX in the coming years, many companies are happy to oblige.
This leaves brands with little room for error when it comes to the CX they deliver throughout the car buying customer journey. Unfortunately, it appears brands are currently coming up short in providing experiences that meet these ever-growing expectations, both online and at the dealership. This signals a disconnect that CX professionals have to address.
They need measures to identify the friction points in the CX that are causing these unmet expectations. Plus, they must have the processes in place to alert the right people at the right time so they can fix these issues as quickly as possible.
The experience at the dealership is becoming more critical
Car shoppers are visiting an average of 2.3 dealerships before making a purchase, down from 2.7 in 2017.(7)
79% of consumers in Canada rate CX as being either somewhat or very important in their decision of where to buy a vehicle.(8)
54% of consumers would buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest price.(9)
“Consumers want to complete parts of the car buying process online prior to visiting the dealership and engage with digital technology while at the dealership so they’re not sitting idle for hours waiting for the paperwork to be finalized.”(10)
54% of Gen Y/Z car shoppers in Canada find it useful to gather information using their mobile device at the dealership – vs. 25% of Pre/Boomers.(8)
Car shoppers are spending more of their customer journey on digital channels. Research also shows that they would complete even more of the customer journey online if they could. With car shoppers making fewer visits to the dealership, it highlights the importance of dealerships making every experience informative, memorable, and convenient for car shoppers.
In other words, to make every dealership visit count.
Are you listening across the entire car buying customer journey?
The Automotive customer journey is packed with experiences that can mean the difference between winning and losing a customer.
From the time a car shopper starts their research, to when they step into a dealership, all the way to when they bring their car in for servicing. Every interaction between a car buyer and a brand provides an opportunity for CX professionals to design experiences that will leave other brands and dealerships in the dust.
Leveraging a Voice of Customer solution to collect customer feedback across the entire customer journey allows CX professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of car shoppers. Their needs, their expectations, their preferences, their perceptions – having these insights for each stage of the customer journey can be extremely valuable to inform your customer experience management strategies.
At Emplifi, we work with leading auto brands improve the end-to-end customer experience. Set up a time to review your current initiatives and learn how Emplifi's unified CX platform can help you deliver the experiences car shoppers desire today.
Google/comScore “Automotive shopper study”, as reported in Think With Google: “The auto dealer’s guide to moving metal in a digital world”
Think With Google: The auto dealer’s guide to moving metal in a digital world
Cox Automotive: Car Buyer Journey Study 2018
Deloitte, as reported in the Wall Street Journal: “Shift Auto CX Into High Gear”
Google, as reported by Strathcom Media
Andrew Dinsdale and Andrey Berdichevskiy (Deloitte): “The Future Is Now: Transforming the Automotive Customer Experience”
Cox Automotive: 2019 Car Buyer Journey Study
Deloitte: 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study – Canada
Autotrader: Car Buyer of the Future Study
Cox Automotive: Top Insights Shaping the Automotive Industry
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on iperceptions.com and astutesolutions.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.