How Consumer Buying Trends Have Evolved in the Automotive Industry

July 12th 2018 by Director of Account Services

The automotive industry has undergone an ongoing and dynamic transformation over the past few years. This major transformation is the result of connected technologies, changing trends in consumer shopping behavior, and consumer mobility, which all impacts how consumers research and then buy vehicles.

New developments in technology and the increasing popularity of social media marketing has given birth to a new type of consumer - a consumer that is both empowered and informed. This means there is nothing but opportunity when it comes to marketing your car dealership!

How Has the Car Shopping Experience Changed?

“Back in the day,” people used to drive from dealership to dealership in search for the ideal car. In these days, the salesman held the power - the salesman controlled the release of vehicle information, the price of the vehicle, and kept a stronghold on the power come time for negotiations. The case is far from such today.

Sparked by digital trends and propelled by mobile device use, those same car shoppers are now forming opinions and making decisions through their own independent online research, before even setting foot in the dealership.

Where Do Car Shoppers Do Their Research?

More informed customers means far more factors come into the purchase decision than ever before, and all of this information must be readily available and easily accessible if you want to grab the customer’s attention before they look elsewhere. Consumers are steadily increasing their use of 3rd party sites while shopping for a car, using various sources like YouTube,, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and CarGurus for research and to help them make an informed purchase decision.

The majority of car shoppers today are using their mobile devices to conduct research while they are physically at the dealership, and in fact the top action people perform with their phones while at the dealership is to confirm that they are getting a good price on the vehicle. The searches for Kelley Blue Book and competing dealers occur more often when at the dealership. It is absolutely critical that dealerships have all of the information consumers are searching for available and easily accessible, in mobile particularly.

How has Video Influenced the Car Shopping Experience?

Video has surpassed being the “up-and-coming” trend, and is here to stay. 69% of people who used YouTube while buying a car were influenced by it- that is more than TV, newspapers, or magazines. Not only does video marketing bring in a high ROI, they're also in extremely high demand for consumers. The types of videos car buyers watch include spec and features videos, test drives, and vehicle interior & exterior walkthroughs.

Who Is Buying New Cars?

The answer? Millennials, thats who (millennials are defined as the group of people born after 1982 and before 2004). By 2020, 40% of new car buyers will be millennials, of which 88% use the internet to research car purchase. Now, more than ever, it is important for car dealerships to build a strong, credible presence online to connect with this generation of car buyers.

What are the Must-Haves for a Modern New Car?

Cars play an increasingly important role in supporting this generations need to stay connected. In a study by, 72% of younger millennials indicated that a car is important to their social life. Style and features, particularly technology, are must-haves for cars today. Car buyers today want a vehicle with standard safety features, parking and reverse sensors, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and a navigation system.

The “Ideal Car” according to social media contains all of the technology features listed above, but also provides a comfortable ride and seats, a spacious interior, powerful engine, and heated seats and steering wheel. With the growth of social media, the look and aesthetic of a vehicle is growing in greater importance for shoppers. Search interest for “pictures of [automotive brand]” have gone up 37% year-over-year, with 80% of these searches happening in mobile.

How To Respond To the Changing Climate for Car Buyers?

In this mobile-fueled shopping landscape, the ones that stand out and thrive seize the opportunities to be there and be helpful for car shoppers in those micro-moments, or the intent-rich moments when people turn to their mobile devices to go, do, or purchase. You have to figure out new ways to show up with relevant information whenever those micro-moments happen, whether its at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. It is far less crucial for a shopper to actually be in the store, than for the store to be present wherever and whenever a shopper may need it.

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