With the total number of car sales dropping in 2017 by 5.7% and a further decline of between 5 and 7% forecast for 2018 (SMMT, 2018) there is a growing need for dealerships to be able to reach out and appeal to consumers at every stage of their car buying journey.

It’s no longer just about advertising, about managing to get a picture of the new shiny car in front of consumers, it’s become so much more consumer centered with customer value being high on the list of the most important elements.

In Cox Automotive 2018 Car Buyer Journey study, it was found that only 1 in 3 consumers know what they want at the start of the journey. This leaves a huge amount of time for them to be persuaded, drawn to your dealership, as well as being put off.

Digital Journey

Consumers are spending a whopping 60% of their time searching online for their next car purchase. Here is a report showing a consumers car buying process and how many times they accessed information online, again highlighting the importance of your dealership being visible online.


Without having a strong presence in the online marketplace, your dealership may as well be in the middle of nowhere, with no signs, no directions and no passing traffic. It is growingly important to be able to effectively reach and influence the consumers whenever they are online and at every part of their buying journey.

So you will keep hearing me refer to the ‘car buying journey’. If you are wondering what this is then I’m just going to take a little while explaining the stages and questions that a consumer may ask and go through before finally making a purchase. These stages are important to look at so that you can plan how you can interact and reach the consumer at each point.

Stage 1 - Which car is best for me? There are a variety of online tools available to help consumers pick the right car for them. Maybe think about integrating one into your website, this can increase the amount of time that the consumer will spend there and also the level of trust as you are giving them options that are clear to understand. .

Stage 2 - Is it right for me? In order to appeal to the consumer you need to be able to understand and emphasise with their needs. This is where you will need to make sure that you know as much as you can about the consumers. Having target audience personas will help with this to ensure that your marketing is targeting to the correct group.

A question to ask yourself here is ‘what do they want from this?’ Is it a mum that needs enough space to fit the whole family and shopping in and be able to lift children out easily? Is it a businessman that wants to drive something that will be impress the clients at his meeting? Is it a young couple saving for their first home and looking for the most efficient and economical drive?

Stage 3 - Can I afford it? At this point of the journey it is actually possible to draw consumers in that weren’t even in the market for a new car! By showcasing the most efficient cars and their features, by creating a video to show how to drive efficiently and by highlighting the amount of money that can be saved, you enter the world of being able to appeal to all those people that search the internet on a monthly basis for ‘how to save fuel’.

Stage 4 - Where should I buy it? As always, engaging with a customer and being able to give good and honest advice is the best method. By interacting with the customers in the online market, including social media, you are increasing the chance of being at the top of their mind when it comes to needing your product/service

Stage 5 - Am I getting a deal? It has been shown that car consumers are becoming less satisfied with the price that they pay. In order to reinforce trust you could provide a consistent pricing tool that provides your price within the market context. This clear transparency can help to build customer satisfaction and can be used as a method throughout your advertising material.

Purple Motion Thoughts

The increase in digital marketing presents the automotive industry with lots of opportunities. As well as being able to appeal to a wider audience, the dealerships are no longer restricted by their location and have an abundance of ways to communicate with their audience. For the majority of us, buying a car is not an everyday event. We search for the features that we want and need, the colours that we prefer, the prices that we think will suit our budget, and then when we realise that we have created a car that we could not possibly afford to run, so we start over again to consider the endless possibilities. Any honest information that can be received easily online for consumers to consider in the comfort of their own home is normally gratefully received. Comparison tables and a use of video can be especially useful and can lead to a greater amount of trust in the dealership, as well as in the vehicle that they are interested in.