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What Do Car Shoppers Want? The Answer Might Surprise You.

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What do automotive shoppers really want?

That’s the multi-billion dollar question, and the dealerships that know the answer to that question are the ones raking in the lion’s share of those dollars.

With car shoppers visiting an average of 1.6 dealerships in the entire buying process, these dealers know that giving these shoppers the information they want during the online research process is crucial to making sure shoppers choose their dealership over their competitor’s.

In an effort to determine what information automotive shoppers really care about, Jazel – along with Google – analyzed the search trends and behaviors of automotive shoppers. Our analysis found that, while price and availability remain important, it’s features that shoppers are really interested in.

 

The Majority of the Shopping Process is Cross-Shopping

In order to understand this rise in feature-related interest, it’s important to understand the consumer’s path-to-purchase in the context of search behavior. Ranging anywhere from 2-6 months, the automotive path-to-purchase is dominated by cross-shopping.

According to Google, only 20% of car buyers start their research (via search engines) with the brand they ultimately buy. In other words, throughout the path-to-purchase, shoppers are in a constant state of comparison until they finally narrow their choices down to the brands, models, and trims that have what they want.

This cross-shopping behavior is so prevalent that it makes up 73% of all in-market search volume on Google. As such a dominant part of the shopping process, understanding this behavior is crucial to ensuring that your online presence is aligned with shopper needs.

But what exactly is it that shoppers are looking for when they’re cross-shopping?

 

Shoppers Are Searching for Features

Cross-shopping is all about narrowing down options, and in the later stages of information gathering, it focuses on discovering differences between models. Lately, those differences have centered on features.

According to Google, feature-related searches have risen  significantly from last year – 15% for “truck space,” 30% for “towing capacity,” 31% for “panoramic sunroof,” and 23% for “backup camera.  When in-market auto consumers go online to search for a new vehicle, they’re technically looking at cars, but what they are really shopping for, are features. If people were only shopping for a vehicle, any car with four wheels and an engine would do the trick; it is a car’s features that make the difference.

 

Features are Important to Shoppers

It’s clear that a large proportion of shoppers’ online search behavior is dedicated to finding and comparing features. The fact that shoppers are devoting so much time to comparing cars by their features means that features are crucial to deciding whether to buy one car over another.

When a shopper arrives at a dealership’s website, they generally know what model they want. The objective then is to find the VIN that has all the features they are looking for. If they are unable to do so, chances are high that they will do it somewhere else. The dealers that make it easy for shoppers to compare VINs by feature, and then zero in on the ideal vehicle will be the ones that win the sale.

With more of the path to purchase taking place online, and number of dealer visits before purchase plummeting, it is more important than ever for dealers to make certain their websites are providing the exact information on VIN-specific features that customers are looking for. Being the dealer who provides that information online in the fastest, easiest, and most intuitive way, is what makes the difference between being one of the 1.6 dealers visited, or being one of the many who are passed over.