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Most buyers are looking for their next car after you’ve closed your showroom for the night…

Time 7 years ago

autotraderWANT to sell more cars? Then bolster your online presence – and make sure potential customers can get all the information they need without having to give you a call.

Why? Because the latest research suggests more and more people are researching their next purchase in the evening – yes, that’s right, when your showroom doors are shut, and your salespeople are safely tucked up in bed.

The news comes from Auto Trader, which says that, along with a rise in ‘evening research’, there are now fewer forecourt visits but more customers arrive on site without having made any prior contact with sales staff.

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Auto Trader says: ‘We’re reminding all retailers to focus carefully on their “night watchmen”, the online points of contact that drive leads when doors are shut and when buyers are searching.’

The second Annual Buyer Behaviour Study, conducted by GfK for Auto Trader, pooled the experience of 1,300 car buyers spanning the first three months of this year. The sample comprised 16 dealers, four franchise groups – representing more than 250 dealerships with an even split between new and used-car purchases – ten independents and two car supermarkets, making it one of the most comprehensive studies of its type in the industry.

Other findings are that two-thirds of traffic to the Auto Trader site is generated by mobile and tablet with 86% of consumers now searching for their next car after 6pm.

While buyers do search at other times of the day, just 24 per cent of desktop users, 18 per cent of tablet searchers and 36 per cent of smartphone users said they were most likely to search between the hours of 9am and 6pm when dealers’ doors are typically open.


Only 50 per cent of franchise customers visited only the dealer from whom they bought their car compared with 47 per cent for supermarkets and 51 per cent for independents. The decline in dealer visits contrasts with an increase in the number of referrals to online showrooms. Most people visit at least three as part of the buying journey, with the average standing at nearly five.

Walk-ins are now the first point of consumer-dealer contact in 58 per cent of transactions. For franchise dealers, the research revealed a higher figure at two thirds (66 per cent), compared with 50 per cent when asked the same question a year ago.

A slightly lower figure was reported for car supermarkets, with 63 per cent of customers making first contact through a walk-in while, for independents, the figure was much lower albeit still nearly half of all transactions (48 per cent).

Nick King, market research director, says: ‘This latest research continues to frame a buying journey where a forecourt visit is increasingly the affirmation of a decision made following extensive research online.

‘In this new online environment, things like full page ad views and a content-rich,responsive dealer website become key tools in driving leads. They are the night watchmen for your dealership, the professional face of your online business that drive leads out-of-hours, or in the absence of any active engagement with you or a member of your team.’

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Colin Channon's avatar

Colin is a former editor of Car Dealer. He left the magazine in August 2015.

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