Winning the Moments Before the Dealership

Sharon Chen, Aditi Manwani, Steven Shin Jan 2017 Mobile, Automotive, Micro-Moments

New research shows that being there and useful in consumers' initial auto searches leads directly to dealership visits. The brands that want to win sales on the lot need to first win these early micro-moments.

Consumers increasingly rely on digital, and especially mobile, to help with their auto purchase journey—to research, find deals, and get real-time auto advice. For example, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. watches auto content on YouTube once per month.1 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 start and finish an auto purchase online, it's critical for brands to win early micro-moments to drive people to the lot.

Be there in early moments to accelerate dealership visits

We conducted a study looking at individual micro-moments and their impact on dealership visits. We found positive correlations between searches in all five of the key auto moments and a visit to the dealership.2

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. Our 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.3 For brands, then, having a digital presence across all the five key auto micro-moments is critical.

auto winning the moment

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. In fact, of people who use YouTube while buying a car, 69% are influenced by it—more than TV, newspapers or magazines.4

For auto consumers, our 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.5 Some of the common search terms for shoppers in these moments include: "[brand/make] + reviews," "[brand/make] + specs," and "best luxury cars."

Once consumers 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,6 and 80% of these searches are now happening on mobile.7

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.8 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 too.

We can unequivocally say that being there across all five moments is important if you want to turn auto browsing into 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 those early micro-moments too.

And don't forget to track the impact of being there in early micro-moments. Tools such as Google store visits or store sales can help OEMs understand the role of these moments in prompting dealership visits, and help your brand drive true business growth.

What on-the-lot foot traffic data reveals about car shopping