Top Seven Takeaways from the Cox 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study


The Cox 2018 Car Buyer Journey Study is chock-full of great info for dealers. Here are our top takeaways; check out the full report here!

1. The Stat: 60% of the car buying process happens digitally. 

The Takeaway: The best place to make an impression is online. 60% is a very substantial chunk of the buying process: it means more than 8 hours scouring the internet for information, answers, and advice. That’s why it’s so important that your website and social media are valuable for shoppers. Enriching your online platforms with not only your inventory and specials, but also resources like shopping tips, technology guides and how-to’s, and tools that actually help shoppers move forward in the process will help you attract customers and encourage them to make their purchase with you.

Bonus takeaway: Shoppers come into dealerships extremely informed. 8 hours of research! With this kind of customer, it crucial for your sales reps need to be highly informed.

2. The Stats: 47% of car shoppers think the total price of a vehicle is most important to know; 18% think monthly price is most important; 35% think monthly price and total price are equally important. 

The Takeaway: Flexible pricing information is important to reach more customers. Total pricing and monthly pricing info are both important to customers. While total price is still more important for more customers, having both options means more satisfied shoppers. This point also underscores the overall need for variety and personalization on your website: provide plenty of engagements for shoppers with all kinds of interests, and implement the technology that can show the right content to the right people. In short: it should be easy for every customer to find the information they want.

3. The Stat: When researching online, 45% of new car shoppers finish at dealership sites.  

The Takeaway: Dealership websites need to be very searchable. Even though most shoppers begin their research on third–party sites, 40% of all shoppers finish at a dealership sites, and 45% of all new car shoppers finish at dealership sites. That means that dealerships need to be eminently searchable so that when customers move on from initial research and start looking for local cars they can actually buy, they find you. Make sure your website is optimized for SEO, mobile, and local search. Get your reviews posted, get your Google My Business listing in order, and, as mentioned earlier, fill your website with resources that customers are searching for. Too often, when shoppers Google questions they have about car buying, they find third-party sites. Videos, how-to guides and checklists for new shoppers mean more shoppers can find your website faster.

4. The Stat: For 57% of shoppers, walking in is the initial contact with dealerships.

The Takeaway: Use tools to connect your online marketing efforts to the people who walk into your showroom. The walk-in might be the first time they talk to you, but it’s almost certainly not the first time they’ve engaged with your dealership in some way. Remember the 60% of research being done online? There’s a reason these customers are walking in, and it’s probably because of a number of digital interactions, even if they never converted. But not knowing which ads, engagements, website resources, or third-party sites influenced them means it’s hard to tell where your marketing dollars are having an impact. Tools are emerging that enable you to connect the digital touchpoint to the in-person sale, so that you can calculate accurate ROI and  make better marketing spend decisions.

5. The Stat: 40% of new car shoppers buy or lease from the same dealership they used previously, up from 34% in 2017.

The Takeaway: Loyalty is not dead! More people are buying from dealerships they bought from before. This is great news, as it likely points to good experiences on the rise. Nevertheless, 40% means most people are still not returning to their previous dealerships– so there’s a lot of potential for growth in earning loyalty through great customer service. Smooth out any frictions in the buying process at your dealership, both online and in person, so that you draws people back to you again and again. Invest in great follow-up campaigns for customers to improve retention for service. There is a lot of potential here to raise that number up from 40%.

6. The Stat: 1 in 6 new car buyers did not choose the first dealership they visited due to a poor experience. 

The Takeaway: Customer experience is key to making the sale. A lot of car shoppers still expect a hassle when they come to the dealership. Showing you prioritize customer needs by taking the time to listen to what they’re interested in, answering their questions, being a true resource, and not rushing them to make a decision goes a long way. So much about making a buying decision is about feeling trust, so foster that feeling of goodwill and keep those walk-ins.

7. The Stat: Nearly 80% of customers are satisfied with the test drive process, but only 46% are satisfied by how long the entire dealership process took.

The Takeaway: Make the the harder parts of buying a car faster and more convenient. The test drive is the fun part. Waiting for F&I, negotiating the details, making final decisions– this can be challenging and time-consuming for many customers. Streamline and shorten the negotiating process, implementing digital tools and allowing customers to do more online, can improve this part of buying for shoppers.