Car Buying Habits Your Dealership Needs to Know in 2021

The recent pandemic has had a massive effect on the ways in which we make the majority of our purchases, and buying a car is no exception. As face-to-face interactions between buyer and seller have become less appealing — and in some cases an impossibility — shopping for a car has shifted to a predominantly online activity.

However, the relationship-driven nature of the industry has not changed — and this presents an exciting opportunity for dealerships. 

With cutting-edge online tools, dealers and consumers can begin to form relationships earlier in the sales process. And by leaning into modern car buying habits, you can position your dealership to be with the customer every step of the way.

Know where consumers research.

As smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices have become a staple in the majority of American households, online research has never been easier or more accessible. In-depth independent internet research has become the first step for consumers looking to buy a car. In fact, of the time spent in the car-buying process, 60% is allocated to online investigation.

In addition to traditional OEM sites, third-party sites are a frequently used online resource. A study by JDPower & Associates shows that internet shoppers visit an average of 10 automotive websites during their research and that the most frequently visited third-party sites are Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book.

Social media websites are also playing a key role in customer research, especially among millennials. While these platforms are not usually used to research specific automotive information, they are frequently consulted for unbiased dealer reviews, information from other vehicle owners, and for viewing other automotive-related content such as videos, photos, and blogs.


Know your time frame.

The increase in online resources — OEM sites, third-party websites, and social media platforms — offers consumers a wealth of information when researching their perfect car. This information is readily accessible through smartphones and mobile devices and means that car buyers are now spending less time shopping, and fewer days in-market.  

Research suggests that consumers are currently spending just 96 days in-market —  down 22 days from 2017. As a result, dealerships must develop strategies to effectively compete online and appeal to consumers from the very beginning of their car buying journey.  

VinMotion®️, from Dealer Specialties, is award-winning inventory management software that gives your dealership widespread data distribution, and a strong presence in the online inventory marketplace. VinMotion allows you to immediately target buyers as they conduct their preliminary research, and display your inventory with enhanced vehicle merchandising tools. 

As time is of the essence, VinMotion’s mobile inventory functionality allows you to add and update vehicle information, pricing and other options on-the-go. You can also quickly appraise vehicles from anywhere using similar market vehicles, book values, and the industry's leading competitive set data.


Know that consumers have more options than ever before

Car buyers are visiting fewer brick-and-mortar dealerships in the process of purchasing a vehicle. On average, new car buyers visit 2.5 dealerships — and buyers of used cars will only visit 2.2. As consumers do more research and make more decisions ahead of time, many are ready to make a purchase before even stepping on the lot. Most importantly, 41% of car buyers will only visit one dealership

To influence buyers, consider personalizing the content of your marketing strategy and make inventory recommendations based on consumer preferences. Use VinMotion to deliver more competitive data than any other resource. By providing 360° photos, walk-around videos, specs, and links to additional resources such as independent reviews and blogs, VinMotion helps build a relationship between your dealership and the buyer before you ever meet face-to-face.

Of course, in-person visits are still part of the final steps in buying a car as buyers test drive and sign paperwork. But when asked to compare their experiences, 61% of car buyers said that their time at the dealership had not significantly improved since the last time they purchased a vehicle. 

Consumers are least satisfied with how long the overall process takes, citing time spent doing paperwork and negotiating as the most frustrating elements. Reducing the time that customers wait to complete their purchase in your dealership will not only improve customer satisfaction, but will create brand loyalty and trust that will be remembered when it comes time for vehicle services and maintenance.

Dealers can shorten the deal-making process by improving their digital retail strategy to include finalizing price, negotiation and paperwork. If more steps are available online, customers end up spending less time at the dealership, and leave with a more positive experience. 


Understand habits to maximize sales.

As a dealership in this highly competitive market, it is important to stand out to potential customers. Knowing that the majority of consumers are now less likely to visit a dealership, it’s vital to pivot your focus to where buyers are researching and making decisions: online. 

With VinMotion from Dealer Specialties, your team can begin forming a relationship with buyers from the very first step of their car buying journey and establish yourself as a trustworthy, authoritative leader. 

Sign up for a custom quote today and unlock the tools your dealership needs to be the first step in the buyer journey — not the last.

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