Cars and trucks are among the most expensive purchases most consumers will ever make. redsportscarAnd, with some consumers holding onto their vehicles for 10 or more years, the last thing they want to do is make a decision they’ll regret. Microsoft has studied the purchase path followed by automotive buyers and summarized their findings in  The Consumer Journey: Global Auto-Buyers report. These findings were also presented at the recent Borrell Local Online Advertising conference and emphasize the importance of a commanding digital presence for auto dealers.

Auto marketers need to know they’re up against some tough influencers as young buyers begin their research. These buyers have opinions and ideas shaped by the cars their parents owned, the cars they may have owned themselves, and the cars have been featured in their favorite movies. This information is merged with what they see in ad campaigns.

It’s also important to remember why buyers are in the market. They may feel they have no choice but to replace their existing vehicle. They could be upgrading because they’ve had a baby. Or, they may be driven to improve fuel efficiency.

Here are the top media influencers on U.S. buyers as begin their research:

  • Auto manufacturer sites (including social media) 53%
  • Comparison and aggregator sites 40%
  • Broadcast TV 40%
  • Search engines 33%
  • Magazines 20%
  • Social networks 10%
  • Newspapers 16%

During the course of the research, at least 21% of consumers experience “switchbacks”. They are still open to considering different brands and different types of cars.

As consumers close in on a deal and a specific vehicle, local dealer websites (and their social media sites)  are rated as an influencer for  43% of buyers. Another 46% consult car rating/review websites.

Auto dealers have an opportunity to extend their marketing influence after consumers make the purchase. One in 5 buyers uploads a photo of their new vehicle to share with friends, 18% post social media notes about their purchase and 17% provide reviews of the dealership.

To learn more about buyers of specific automotive brands, check out the Automotive AudienceSCAN report available at the Research Store on ad-ology.com.