The 5 Ways to An Auto Shopper's Heart

It's true. The classic shopping funnel no longer exists. Ever-evolving technology and a deluge of devices have forever changed the way customers shop, and the automotive industry is no exception.

So Jumpstart conducted extensive online shopper surveys to get a better understanding of what in-market auto shoppers are looking for and how dealers can reach them. These are the top 5 takeaways from our findings that dealers should know.

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Customers want information they can trust. Long before they call a dealer or step foot on a showroom floor, they've read reviews, compared brands, and researched prices. In surveying visitors to its portfolio of sites, Jumpstart found auto review websites to be the primary information source for vehicle purchase decisions—valued even higher than talking to friends and family!

Dealer Tip: Manage your reputation and showcase great reviews on your site.

Access on Any Device

It's no secret that traffic is shifting to mobile. In fact, Jumpstart found that 76% of in-market auto shoppers use a smartphone or tablet while researching a vehicle and that 45% look up information on a mobile device while at a dealership. Jumpstart's publishers are seeing its mobile audience grow too: U.S. News Automotive has had an increase in mobile traffic to its site since 2012 (visits from smartphones are up 22%, and visits from tablets are up 21%). Additionally, Jumpstart found that 21% of shoppers are requesting a quote from a mobile device.

Dealer Tip: Make sure your website is mobile optimized. If a consumer can't access your site from a smartphone, they may rule you out entirely. Also, if you're running online media—don't limit that to desktop ads.

Sight, Sound, and Motion

Jumpstart has found that photos and videos are the most popular auto-related content customers are viewing on smartphones and tablets and the third most-popular content viewed on laptops and desktops. And video has become an integral part of the auto shopping process (84% plan to watch one the next time they shop for a vehicle).

Elise Kephart, the Internet sales manager at Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo, California creates videos to respond to her customers. This has given her a way to truly set herself—and the dealership—apart. Sunset Honda gets glowing reviews (and a near-perfect 5-star rating) on Yelp, thanks, in part, to their unique approach to engaging with customers and promoting their vehicles.

Dealer Tip: Have up-to-date photos on your inventory pages. Ditch stock photography for high-quality OEM-provided images or shots you commission. And use video to connect with your customers when you need to bring your vehicles to life.

Engagement on Their Terms

Some consumers flat-out refuse to engage the old-fashioned way—take Millennials, for example. They are less brand loyal and by the time they step onto a lot, they've probably already made up their mind. It's important to find new ways to connect with these consumers because their business is the future of the industry. In fact, 71% of Millennials anticipate purchasing or leasing their next vehicle within the next six months. To keep the conversation going with these valuable shoppers, you'll need to engage with them when—and how—they want.

Dealer Tip: Don't shy away from chatting with shoppers over the phone or via email. By providing information ahead of time, you'll end up with customers who are ready to purchase when they hit your lot.


Whether it's age, race, or gender, the typical auto customer looks very different today than in decades past. And yet, the most common complaint from women, Millennials, and people of color is that they feel like they are treated differently when they walk into a dealership. And these consumers actually make up the vast majority of the U.S. auto-buying market.

Dealer Tip: Treat everyone as a valued customer who has done their homework. A positive experience will not only create a repeat customer, but could lead to referrals.

Bottom Line:

Embrace change, put your brand where consumers are, and find ways to make a personal connection. And, because some things never change, give people what they want today, and chances are they'll be back tomorrow.

For more on how in-market auto shoppers are researching vehicles, visit:

*Statistics used in this article are from two Jumpstart shopping studies (July 2013 and January 2014). Jumpstart surveyed visitors to its portfolio of automotive sites.

  1. Google Analytics, January 2012 – May 2014
  2. Millward Brown Digital/Google Vehicle Path to Purchase Study, September 2013


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