How Auto Buyers Prefer to Shop Online

By: Kristy Esch

Known for her many years of writing long and short form articles for the multifamily industry. Her amazing writing continues to shine in other industries.


True or false? Consumers visit your website when they’re ready to buy a vehicle.


The answer? FALSE


Today’s auto dealership websites focus primarily on the final transaction and shoppers who are ready to make a purchase. However, data from PERQ’s recent Car Buyer’s Insight Report shows 30% of buyers say they’re in the beginning of the car buying process, while 46% say they’re in the middle. You can do the math, but three quarters of consumers who land on your website AREN’T actually ready to buy now!


Are you surprised? Did it confirm what you already knew? Sadly, many of today’s dealer websites are optimized only for consumers who are ready to buy. In reality, the majority of consumers visiting your website need YOUR dealership’s help in making a decision on what to buy first.


“Dealership websites today focus on the transaction far more than helping those car buyers in the research phase,” says Russ Chandler, Product Marketing Manager for PERQ. “There are two reasons: Dealerships want to optimize their site and get in front of the consumer when they’re ready to buy right now to help close the deal, and many of the vendor tools used on dealership websites only focus on the transaction.”


Dealerships need to take a step back, look at their websites more closely and rethink the way they’re using the online experience to help those visitors in the discovery and research phase of the car buying funnel.


Modern Car Buyers Like Research

Today’s shoppers like to make sure they’re making a well informed decision. This is especially true when it comes to a major purchase like buying a car. More than 80% of customers conduct research online before ever making a purchase, according to Forbes Insights.


“You can try to sell a car buyer online, but they don’t want to be sold,” says Chandler. “They avoid lead traps at all costs, and you can see it in the poor performance of many digital retail products out there that don’t deliver good leads because they focus only on the transaction, not actually helping the consumer throughout the entire buying process.”


It’s up to dealers to help the car buyer through that journey online: moving the consumer from the discovery phase to the research phase to the buying phase, which ultimately gets them to step foot onto the dealership lot. “Optimizing your website to help consumers do the research is your way in,” says Chandler, adding it helps to build trust in your dealership. “You can give consumers a reason to choose you over a competitor.”


Interactive Experiences Help Auto Buyers with Research

Dealerships can create a website where auto buyers wants are willing to provide their information in return for something of value: helpful information. When dealers make their website interactive and connect the tools to provide a smooth and easy shopping process, dealers will notice more consumers providing their contact info with hesitation; thus, becoming a new lead.


Online Car Buying Funnel PERQ | PERQ AI Leasing Assistant


To help move that shopper from the discovery phase all the way to the buy phase, dealerships can try out different types of interactive experiences to help attract consumers in all phases of the buying funnel:


Discovery Phase

  • Welcome Guide
  • New or Used Assessment
  • Special Offer Unlock
  • Get Pre-Qualified


Research Phase

  • Model Match Assessment
  • Estimate My Trade-In Value
  • Lease or Finance Assessment
  • Market Price Comparison Reporting
  • Incentive Qualifier
  • Check for Price Updates
  • Check for Special Offers


Buy Phase

  • Chat With Live Representative
  • Check Availability
  • Make An Offer
  • Get Trade Offer
  • Request More Info
  • Schedule Test Drive
  • Apply For Financing
  • Deal Arrangement/Structure


Get Auto Buyers to Spend More Time on Site

By creating an enjoyable and interactive experience online, dealerships are not only building trust, but helping to improve engagement and time on their website. With the above interactive experiences, auto buyers have the tools they need to get valuable information that helps them with their research.


Here are some example assessment questions dealers can use to help buyers decide the make and model of the vehicle they want to purchase:


How big is your household?

Answer selection: Just me, Me and a lot of stuff, A couple, A small family, A big family


What do you use your vehicle for?

Answer selection: Kids to practice, Commute to work, Camping, Hauling heavy things, Drive around town


What’s most important to you?

Answer selection: Fuel economy, Performance, Space, Technology


What type of roads do you typically drive?

Answer selection: All kinds of roads, Neighborhoods, Highway/Interstate, Country roads, City Roads


How important is four-wheel and/or all-wheel drive?

Answer selection: Top priority, Pretty important, Slightly important, Don’t care


Once a visitor answers the questions, they receive a vehicle recommendation that would work for their needs. After getting a recommendation, an interactive experience can offer up suggestions for best next steps in order to help them further their research.


Your auto dealership website is now engaging visitors because they feel like they’re being helped just like they would be in your dealership’s showroom. All of the interactive experiences you can provide online helps to create two-way communication.


The key to success is to make sure all of the tools on your site are connected, so that it remembers visitor information and never asks for the same information twice. If a visitor tells you they’re interested in new vehicles, you shouldn’t show them used vehicles, for example.


As we’ve discussed before, today’s shopper expects a personalized experience. You can thank big brand retailers and even OEMs for quickly realizing that the research phase for buyers is so critical in helping to build brand identity. Building trust can ultimately turn into a sale.


Let’s face it: auto buyers want to help themselves and they don’t want to spend any more time in your dealership than they have to. As consumers interact with your newly optimized site, you’re helping them the same way you’d help them if they were looking at cars on your dealership lot. By leveraging connected interactive experiences, you’re now helping move auto shoppers through the buying funnel.

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