For the last 20 years, I have been working with auto retailers in all 3 tiers of automotive marketing – OEM, Regional Ad Association and Retail. I have seen dealer ad budgets change dramatically, watching the shift of traditional spend change significantly over to digital spend at a steady pace. And with dealer appetites to find consumers right before they’re about to purchase, Google Adwords has seen the most growth of any individual channel that I recognize.
Recently, I spent some time in Mountain View at Google’s HQ to meet with and learn from Google’s top minds on their auto team. What they shared was their latest iteration of their Google Automotive Shopper Behavior Study that they commissioned Kantar to produce for them. With Kantar, Google surveyed 2,750 people who have purchased a vehicle in the prior 3 months to take the survey (2,000 New, 500 Used, 250 Certified Pre-Owned, 250 EV/Hybrid) and performed an analysis of their digital browsing history leading up to purchase. They did so by leveraging Google data on the millions of intent signals across search, video, web and dealership visits.
The most compelling slides that Google shared with me are ones that outlined 3 truths and 3 trends that they pulled out of their study. Below I will share those with you and then give you my 3 takeaways from that study.
Car Shoppers research heavily
- 63% of purchasers discover their purchasing dealership online. You can’t win on the showroom floor if you don’t first win online
…over a three-month period…
- 81% of purchasers spend up to 3 months doing research
…and are ready to buy when they arrive at your door.
- 71% of purchasers do not submit an online lead action (up from 39% in 2013)
- 41% have their first communication with you when they arrive at the store
Newer isn’t always better…
- 55% of new car shoppers consider a used or certified pre-owned (up from 30% in 2016)
I’m on the phone!
- 69% of shoppers will ONLY interact with your mobile site
- 88% of purchasers are still searching just 3 days before purchase
- Search is the #1 last step before visiting a dealership
After reviewing the study and meeting with Google, what is evident to me is that auto shopper behavior continues to evolve, that our targeting and reporting capabilities continue to improve and that marketing and operational strategies will need to evolve as well to keep up. Here are my insights:
- Optimizing for leads only is a losing proposition. Dealerships should be optimizing their entire marketing budget towards inventory engagement on their site – quality and quantity of VDP (vehicle detail page) views, phone calls and store visits (which Google can now help you measure)
- Dealers need to set-up store visit reporting in Google Adwords and Analytics if they qualify (unfortunately not all will now due to their size but it’s likely coming)
- With a new focus on driving more engagement with their inventory dealers need to not only improve their online inventory merchandising, but they need to make sure they have a diverse inventory that meets market demand and leverage it to draw shoppers to their sites
In 2020, Octane will be looking at not only search, but also dynamic inventory campaigns (VinFuel), online video pre-roll and connected TV/OTT campaigns and our clients’ entire integrated marketing and operational plans to leverage these insights from Google. Thank you, Google for providing the industry with useful data and insights for 2019!