Winning the Moments Online, Before the Dealership Visit

by Omni | Wednesday February 1st 2017

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New research shows that having a presence and being useful in a customer’s initial car shopping search leads directly to dealership visits. The dealers that want to win sales on the lot need to first win these early micro-moments online.

Consumers increasingly rely on the internet, especially on mobile phones, to help with their auto purchase journey—to research, find deals, and get real-time automotive advice. For example, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. watches automotive content on YouTube once per month. Today, these digital interactions influence shoppers’ decisions as much as (and potentially even more than) the salesperson on-the-lot. And because we’re not yet able to fully complete a car purchase online, it’s critical for dealers to win early micro-moments to drive people to the dealership.

Be there in early moments to accelerate dealership visits

Google conducted a study looking at individual micro-moments and their impact on dealership visits. They found positive correlations between searches in all five of the key auto moments and a visit to the dealership.

For moments later in the purchase journey, it should not be a surprise if a consumer turns up at your lot—for example, when someone searches for “where to buy a car”.

However, being there in initial moments matters too. The study shows that consumers in their early research moments, such as “which-car-is-best” or “is-it-right for me” moments, are signaling intent to visit a dealership within a week. For dealers, that means having a strong digital presence across all the five key auto micro-moments is critical.

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Format matters in driving traffic to the lot

Equally important to being there in the initial research phase is being useful with the right content in the right format. For early micro-moments, video is great for engaging consumers. According to the data, people who watch YouTube while buying a car, 69% are influenced by it—more than TV, newspapers or magazines.

For auto consumers, the research shows that YouTube has the greatest impact at the start of the purchase journey. People using YouTube in “which-car-is-best” moments showed a higher correlation with dealership visits than people using YouTube in other moments. Some of the common search terms for shoppers in these moments include: “[brand/make] + reviews,” “[brand/make] + specs,” and “best luxury cars.”

Once car shoppers have narrowed down their “which-car-is-best” choices, they want to know if their selection will fit their lifestyle and needs. They’re curious about features, options, interiors, and exteriors. Increasingly, they’re turning to Image Search to answer these “is-it-right-for-me” questions. Search interest for “pictures of [automotive brand]” is up 37% year-over-year, and 80% of these searches are now happening on mobile.

These image searches can drive consumers to the dealership. In fact, consumers who used Image Search in “is-it-right-for-me” moments were more likely to head to the lot than those people using Image Search within other moments. In these moments, popular search terms include: “[brand] + sedan models,” “[brand/make] + interior,” and “[brand/make] + dimensions.”

If you want to be one of the few visits that a consumer makes to the dealership, invest in mobile for those early micro-moments as well.

We can certainly say that being there across all five moments is important if you want to turn car browsing into car buying. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that buying decisions only happen at the end of the marketing funnel. If you want to be one of the few visits that a consumer makes to a dealership, invest in mobile for early micro-moments too.

Understanding auto shopping behavior is part of the many factors that we take into account to continually customize our client’s campaigns.

Interested to see how Omni can customize a digital plan for you? Take advantage of our free digital analysis.

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1 Google/Ipsos Connect, Mobile Video Study, U.S., n=2503, among adults aged 18-54 who go online at least monthly, Feb. 2016.
2,3,5,8 Google Data, aggregated and anonymized data are based on a sample of U.S. users that have Location History turned on, 2015. Compared foot traffic to any auto dealership between users who searched for an auto keyword within 7 days and those who did not. Auto keywords included in the analysis are the top 500 keywords by auto micro-moment.
4 TNS Media Consumption Report, 2015.
6 Google Trends, September 2015 vs. September 2014, United States.
7 Google Internal Data, September 2015, United States.