Dealership Marketing

The Role of the Internet in the New and Used Vehicle Purchase Process

polk study chart

Half of new vehicle buyers and 58 percent of used vehicle buyers said that the web was the most influential information source in their purchase decision.

Polk and recently teamed up to conduct a study of recent buyers of new and used vehicles. To no surprise for us DealerRefreshers, the Internet has become an increasingly important component of the vehicle purchase process. Reaaally?

The results of the study provide insights into the role, influence and perceived usefulness of automotive websites in the vehicle purchase process, including:

  • How the Internet compares to other information sources in terms of usage and influence
  • Which sites (dealer, manufacturer, third-party) are most used during the shopping process
  • The type of information that consumers expect to find online

The Polk/ Automotive Buying Influence Study has a number of implications for dealers and auto manufacturers:

  1. Develop Internet strategies that deliver upon shopper needs
  2. Make sure your SEO and marketing strategies are solid
  3. Determine what drives walk-in traffic

I realize many of these “studies” can be on the self serving side but this one serves every ISM out there that continues to struggle when getting upper management to transition some of that traditional budget over to more effective new marketing mediums.

Click here to download the full study.

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
97% of buyers indicated that SOCIAL MEDIA did not influence their decision....interesting stat.
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • February 6, 2011
I thought the same thing...
Arrg... Someone hide that stat! I WANT my competitors chasing unicorns and rainbows! </sarcasm>
I am already feeling vindicated... I will be speaking at the next Digital Dealer on "Likes or Links, Which One Stinks and Why Social Media is BS", and this supports a lot of what I am sharing about my thoughts about social media (as well as Joe, Andrew Difeo, and others....). Maybe this Polk study is only showing what common sense should have already been telling us...
That is an interesting stat, but I would like to see how 97% of the people surveyed defined "SOCIAL MEDIA." I'm wary of any conclusions where the terms aren't abundantly clear, especially in a relatively new medium. Hate to play the cynic here, but this study included buyers that purchased up to 6 months ago. There are other studies that show that users in "Search Mode" are clicking away so fast that they have no idea where they have been 6 minutes ago let alone 6 months ago. Point is 6 months ago they only remember what they "think" influenced them.

It's not easy to measure the real influences on a big purchase and I don't think a retrospective look relying on a buyer's memory is necessarily the best way to do it. Now, show me a study that tracks a user's real clicks and time on the web for 6 months leading up to a purchase and that is credible data.

Why hasn't Polk done that ?
Right with ya Ryan. For example, 2-6 months after purchase, how can I recall how many hours I spent shopping for a car?

Also, a survey can be easily skewed with by rearranging words, or, asking questions that requires the taker to make assumptions.

For Example, they write:

"..The shoppers ability to obtain information on special offers, dealer rebates and incentives was more important to new vehicle buyers (42 percent) than to used vehicle buyers (28 percent)..."

That's clearly worded for the new car biz. The used car shopper can’t find any incentives or rebates because there are none.

I'd like the see the survey questions.
Kevin...I'm with you on the power of links...and that don't stink!
Interesting set of stats - agree that it's tough to accurately gauge the amount of time spent doing what online... particularly with short attention spans and overload of media being key factors.
I'm with Ryan - I'd like to see a study of actual user clicks over a longer period of time, and compare that with what they ended up buying - or not buying.
Thanks for sharing the study!
  • A
    Alan Eosso
  • April 9, 2011
Does anyone have a link to the full study? I clicked the link, but it's returning a "Page Not Found" Error.

When it comes to Social Media, don't throw it away just yet.

The problem is the type of activity we're trying to associate with it and the results we want from it.

Unfortunately, a great many of us in the retail automotive space want to fit this square peg into the round hole of "Advertise Monday, sell Tuesday" philosophy of "Retail Automotive 1.0."

I think it's pretty clear by looking at the above chart that at 7% and 5% (New and Used buyers, respectively), consumers aren't behaving in the way with which we're most familiar.

We all realize the dealer body is still spending WAY too much money on Print Advertising, yet it continues to decline steadily in it's ability to influence buyers.

As long as we try to view Social Media in that same light, it will appear to be an exercise in futility.

I've got a dealer client who, through some very inexpensive paid adverts, is seeing Facebook as his number one referrer to his website. He gets that every conversation doesn't need to be immediately transactional, yet once you use a social media portal to broaden and deepen your relationships with your customer base, only good things can happen.

Your take-away is this: stop trying to force people to buy the way you want to sell. Instead, start transitioning your business model to selling to them the way they want to buy.

If you keep telling them to do it your way or go elsewhere, sooner or later they will.