The Biggest Disconnects in Vehicle Buyer and Seller Expectations and Attitudes

When is a car sale most likely to happen? Usually when the wants of the buyers are most closely aligned with those of the seller. Identify the places in the sales cycle where there is the least alignment, and you can solve a lot of the challenges of car sales. A report released recently by Jumpstart Automotive Media, “Today’s Auto Buyer and the Digital Retailing Experience,” identified some of the most critical disconnections between auto sellers and customers. Here’s a hint: they’re often found in the digital realm.

The report, which was based on a survey of buyers and sellers, aimed to examine the points of view of both the consumer and the dealer in car sales to better understand the shopping journey, and how and where digital and mobile strategies have changed the consideration, negotiation, and buying processes. While it’s probably impossible to completely eliminate all misunderstandings and distrust, the goal of the research was to identify opportunities to make the buying process more satisfying all around.

The first gap identified by the research is in how consumers choose dealerships. Dealers like to imagine its their reputation and experience, and they spend a lot of time and money advertising these features. In reality, the report found that the most influential factors in consumers’ selection of a dealership are, by far, a low price and having the right inventory. Consumer respondents were twice as likely to choose “low price” as a determining factor in a sale than dealers.

Another major gap is perception and use of dealers’ web sites. Many dealers assume that shoppers visit a flurry of web sites in the days just before they walk into an auto dealership. According to auto shoppers, visits to web sites start much earlier in the process, so it’s in dealers’ best interest to feature content that matches the earliest stages of the buying experience.

“Consumers spend an average of nine hours researching online before walking into a dealership, visiting an average of seven automotive sites, including manufacturer, dealer, and third-party web sites,” according to the report’s authors. “But dealer web sites are far more influential than even dealers themselves perceive. While dealers assume that consumers start their research on other sites, visiting the dealer website closer to the purchase, customers surveyed commonly stated that they use the dealer web site very early in their shopping process.”

Interestingly, the area where vehicle shoppers and dealers had the most in common was in their dislike of haggling over price. However, dealers seem to think customers expect it. In reality, nine out of 10 customers would prefer not to do it at all.