Research into the car buying journey commissioned by carsales.com.au and carried out by Ipsos has found car buyers today navigate the customer journey more quickly and are more confident throughout the process.
The study is a follow up to the research conducted by Ipsos in 2013 to see how things have changed in the past four years.
In 2013 the Ipsos Journey to Vehicle Ownership entailed 5 distinct stages, and took consumers an average of 4.3 months from beginning to end. In 2017 the journey is compressed into just 4 stages, taking consumers an average of 2.7 months to complete.
The Landscape and Validate stages have remained constant across both studies, taking 1-month each to complete. However the Compare and Deal stages that we saw in 2013 have united into just one stage in 2017 – Select. Moving from a shortlist through to purchase, which previously took consumers more than 2 months to complete, is done in just 21 days in 2017 – a shortening in the overall journey of 48 days.
In 2013, with the exception of those ‘auto experts’ who fast tracked through the first two stages, consumers entered the car buying journey and immediately felt overwhelmingly confused and lost.
It wasn’t until mid-way through their journey that buyers started to have a more positive mindset, and began to feel confident and empowered.
By contrast, consumers in 2017 enter the landscape stage feeling much more clarity than their 2013 counterparts, and move through the journey feeling informed and confident throughout. Consumers appear to be well and truly in the drivers’ seat throughout their path to auto purchase in 2017.
Our love affair with smartphones ensures that digital is an intrinsic part of our daily lives, and it’s likely that this is behind this new bold and self assured consumer. Digital audience measurement figures from Nielsen show that there are 3.7 million more Australians online now than there were in 2013, and that adult Australians spend in excess of 84 hours online each month – more than double the amount of time we did in 2013.
More so than ever before we are able to educate ourselves on any subject at the touch of a button, so when it comes to the auto purchase journey we no longer need to rely heavily on others for guidance and advice, but rather take control of our own journey, using the internet as our primary source of information.
While buyers move through the purchase journey more quickly than they did in 2013, but their decision is no less considered now than it was then. Nor is it always a linear, one-way journey.
Almost 1 in 2 buyers paused or went backwards to re-evaluate their choices on their path to purchase in 2017.
The main reasons for backtracking include uncertainty over a new versus a used vehicle, a change in financial situation, and the influence of a car review or competitive comparison.
Although functional requirements, emotional desires and budgets differ from buyer to buyer, the heart of the matter remains constant, as buyers search for a worthwhile purchase that fits their circumstances.
For most consumers, purchasing their next vehicle is a major decision, which involves careful thinking and due diligence to ensure that they are purchasing a vehicle which not only satisfies their lifestyle needs, but also one that suits their financial requirements. However, with over 58 car brands to choose from, finding the best-suited vehicle can be overwhelming.
This new research uncovers that consumers experience 4 distinct stages on their path to purchasing a new vehicle—one fewer than in 2013—and that digital media plays a crucial role throughout their journey to vehicle ownership.
Car review and comparison websites are the leading media source of information across all stages of the purchase journey, from the moment consumers decide they need a new car all the way through to ownership. Of all car review and comparison websites, carsales.com.au is consistently the website or app that consumers are most aware of, used most, and said was the most relevant to them during each stage of the journey, holding a clear lead over its next competitor.
Digital sources are used to research and cross reference information, as well as to gain a broad understanding of the market. Buyers in 2017 do a considerable amount of research online before even stepping into a dealership, and feel much more confident as a result.
The dealership experience plays a role as a key resource for consumers earlier in the purchase journey than it did in 2013. Consumers are seeking tactile experiences that cannot be realised through their digital channels, and dealership experiences can help fulfil this need.
Once buyers commit to a purchase they still have a strong need to validate their decision, using digital resources to postrationalise their purchase.
The majority of consumers are open to a future where they can conduct the entire car buying journey online, with current confidence levels in transacting online high. However the desire for a physical experience with the vehicle still needs to be fulfilled.
Consumers are curious but cautious when it comes to advances in automotive technology, such as electric and autonomous vehicles. They want to be armed with much more information before they will embrace these new technologies.