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Target the 3 Stages of the Auto Purchase Journey

Today’s automotive consumers take a multi-channel journey before they step into your dealership, ready to sign. Dealerships that target consumers throughout every phase of this auto purchase journey ensure they will make the shortlist before a final decision is made.

The auto buyer’s journey is a three-step process a consumer goes through from (1) awareness of a need, (2) consideration of different options, to (3) the decision to act. Through each stage, dealerships must ensure they have a strong presence through multiple channels, and are reaching consumers with the right messages and offers.


In this stage, buyers are aware of a need. More trips to the repair shop may trigger the decision to purchase a new vehicle to offset accumulating costs. A new baby may necessitate a larger family vehicle, or a newly retired couple wants a vehicle with advanced safety features.

The majority of consumers now start their research online. They comparison shop, check out online reviews, or ask for recommendations from their social peers. According to an study, the Internet is by far the most influential channel leading to a dealer, and Google stats indicate that 82% of car buyers are in the market for three months or less, and use seven or eight digital sources on average.

During this initial research phase, dealerships must have a robust multi-channel presence to reach consumers. The most influential digital touch points, in addition to a manufacturer’s site, include dealer websites, social media platforms, third-party sites, and review sites.


During the consideration phase, consumers have narrowed down their search to specific makes, models, and dealerships. What are your options at this point? You may send an email blast announcing your latest deal, or call to set an appointment. Of course, every other dealer is doing the same, so it’s not a matter of who shouts the loudest, but who makes the best offer.

Cutting through the marketing clutter is crucial. Third-party data enhancements can quickly be appended to your prospect list, giving you a competitive edge. You may know a “J. Smith” is in the market and you have an email address, but when you know this person is Jane Smith, married with two children, a household income of $80,000, and interested in family recreation, you can create highly personalized offers and messages more likely to draw a response from her.

In addition to contact details and demographics, other specialized intelligence should be added to a prospect record, such as exact make, model, year, and Black Book value of the car the customer currently drives.


In this last stage of the journey, the consumer has made a decision to visit your dealership. As you know, the deal is far from closed at this point. Once consumers make a decision, 65% use their mobile phone for additional research while they are standing on a dealer’s lot, according to

Consumer experience can be key to closing the deal and creating a lasting customer relationship. Consumers expect a seamless journey across the purchase cycle. They want the same experience at your physical location that they received during the process of choosing which dealer to visit.

Here are a few compelling statistics regarding the importance of a positive customer experience:

  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, reports McKinsey.

  • 74% of consumers have spent more money because of good customer service.

  • 67% of all respondents expect a confirmation within eight hours of sending a request for a test drive and 22% are prepared to wait 24 hours, but only 10% would consider waiting more than 24 hours for a confirmation to be acceptable, according to

Numerous factors contribute to the overall experience, but if consumers feel they are valued, being treated fairly, and don’t have to wait hours to receive service, chances are they’ll be more likely to buy. In fact, when choosing between dealerships, research shows that a consumer doesn’t always purchase on price alone. Although price is a major factor, consumers are increasingly willing to pay more when they feel valued.

The purchase journey of consumers is a multi-step process. It involves multiple points of research on their part, personalized and targeted messaging on your part, and an exceptional customer experience at the end to close the deal. With a strong digital presence, great marketing data, and the motto of the “Customer is King,” you can navigate your way toward new deals before the competition has a chance to make an impression.

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