In May, comScore released its latest monthly digital topic data, this time concentrating on the automotive industry in the digital space. Let’s explore what they had to say about online auto consumers, their habits and how best to reach them.
How are People Shopping for Autos Online?
The internet has changed how people buy vehicles. What used to be a months-long process of considering multiple cars might now take only days and the consideration of just one or two cars.
Instead of doing research in libraries and at dealerships, buyers find information online (including customer reviews) and know what they want by the time they make those few dealership visits. What hasn’t changed is the purchase itself, which still happens at the physical dealership.
It seems that automotive sites are central to the process. With over 130 million monthly visitors, they reach more than double the audience of auto manufacturer sites. An average person spends more than 28 minutes a month on auto sites, and most people use mobile to do it.
Although mobile is the preferred device for most digital auto shoppers, desktop still sees more time on auto sites – 68 percent of it. Because auto research is complex, comScore speculates that screen size, keyboards and tabbed browsers are behind this trend.
Even as auto-related time on mobile doubles, desktop time still dominates, and even grows. Among Millennials, mobile time on auto sites actually dropped by 8.5 percent.
Still, a rise in mobile minutes indicates the advertisers’ need for a multi-platform strategy, especially on auto resource sites. This means reaching shoppers on-the-go and even while they’re shopping at dealerships.
At the same time, advertisers must understand that consumers don’t readily adopt multi-platform habits when it comes to large investments requiring physical visits (such as home and auto purchases). Most people will focus on one platform, which in this case is mobile (remember, that’s most people, but not the majority of overall shopper time).
Who is Shopping for Autos Online?
The serious online auto shopper looks a certain way and has certain habits.
Most likely, the people spending a lot of time looking at autos online are male, make $60,000 or more a year and consume a lot of retail, news and business content.
The people who are very likely to buy (according to comScore’s data) also have a profile. They’re active on social media, spending more than eight monthly hours on mobile Facebook. Half of them share their opinions on the network, and 40 percent read opinions on social media.
Half of likely buyers also consistently strive to be healthier, with habits like sometimes or always checking food ingredients.
Finally, likely auto buyers in digital spaces consume culture in the form of movies (multiple times a month), music (classical/ballet/opera/other concerts) and art more than the general population.
These likely buyers lean certain ways in terms of their ideal product. Most are looking for new cars. Those opting for new cars are more likely to:
- Own a hybrid vehicle
- Use Apple Music
- Buy luxury vehicles or vans
Those opting for used cars are more likely to:
- Have satellite radio
- Have GPS
- Own a Ford
- Buy sedans/coupes or pickup trucks
The likely buyers shopping for new vehicles do their online research across both manufacturer and resource sites, with Autotrader being the most popular resource.
Interestingly, despite the growing use of mobile and desktop among auto shoppers, television is still the primary way auto advertisers reach out to consumers. In 2016, 86 percent of auto advertising dollars were poured into TV, while only 4 percent was put into digital advertising.
Auto advertisers should note that the most likely car buyers are connected well beyond their TV screens. Fifty-five percent subscribe to online video streaming services, and just under 100 percent get news and information on their phones. Sixty percent have no magazine subscriptions and haven’t read a Sunday paper in a month.
Still, 58 percent prefer watching live TV, so it’s nowhere near time for auto advertisers to abandon television advertising.
Capturing Your Mobile Audience and Driving Auto ROI
The internet and expansion of mobile use have changed the way consumers research and shop for cars, though reliance on TV ads and in-person purchases are still strong.
- Remember that auto consumers shop in five major micro-moments, where they ask which cars are best, which is right for them, if they can afford it, where they should buy it and whether or not they’re getting a deal.
- It’s important to know what your local competitors are offering, because shoppers may leave your lot after seeing a better deal on their phone. Highlight how you can do better than the competition.
- Invest in capturing attention in those early micro-moments, when shoppers are narrowing down their selection. YouTube is a great platform for doing this.
- Ramp up your mobile efforts to encourage foot traffic during peak visiting hours, then track your progress with analytics.
No one strategy will work for every digital auto advertising campaign, but an awareness of what’s changing, and what’s staying the same, can help you evolve with your audience and ultimately attract them to your ads, site and lot.