Take 2016’s Auto Trends to the Bank in 2017

BY Courtney Huckabay

Dealer​.com, a Cox Automotive brand operating websites of 62% U.S. franchise car dealerships, has insights from its digital advertising network that provide a closer at the behavior of vehicle shoppers in 2016. "If there’s one thing 2016 taught us, at least in terms of automotive digital shopping data, it’s that quality, not quantity, car shopper traffic is everything. The data does suggest that dealers must provide an engaging and efficient digital car-​buying experience."

Here’s what Dealers​.com found:

– "The busiest day of the year, in terms of shopper visits to dealer websites, was Sunday, July 24, which may be an anomaly because it doesn’t follow the usual weekly cycle of traffic ebbs and flows we’ve come to expect. The next three busiest days were Friday, August 26, Monday, August 29, and Thursday, August 25. You’ll notice these three days all closely preceded Labor Day, which typically involves heavily-​promoted OEM sales events, and marks the beginning of new model year sell-​down season."

Dealers could spotlight their selections of luxury vehicles on these busy website days. According to the most current AudienceSCAN survey, New Car/​Truck Shoppers are 81% more likely than average Americans to drive luxury vehicles. They just might be looking for another online!

– "The slowest day of the year was Sunday, May 8, Mother’s Day. Nine of the 10 slowest days were Sundays. The least trafficked non-​Sunday was Friday, January 1, most likely explained by people needing to recuperate physically and financially from the holidays."

Local dealerships might be interested to find that AudienceSCAN reported on the top three brands New Car/​Truck Shoppers own and drive currently. Toyota claims ownership of 17.7% of new car shoppers; followed by Ford at 17.3%; and 17.1% of new vehicle shoppers own Chevys.

– "Friday appeared to be the busiest day of the week in terms of auto shopper traffic. It, however, had the third smallest ratio of forms-​to-​visits, which means there is room for improvement in terms of engagement and quality."

"Friday afternoons were seen as days for shoppers to develop their ‘game plans’ and do their automotive homework before hitting one or two dealerships for test drives over the weekend,” said James Grace, senior director of analytics products, Cox Automotive Media Solutions Group. “Our data shows that high traffic quantity doesn’t always correlate to high quality, and there is significant room for improvement in terms of giving consumers more online deal-​making tools that can close the gaps in engagement and conversion to sales.”

– "Though Sunday was the slowest, the traffic that day had a higher tendency to view vehicle pages."

– "The busiest hour of the day was 19:00 GMT, 14:00 EST, 11:00 PST, which might be information dealers can use to optimize ad planning."

"If you want to get really specific, afternoons seemed to be the preferred time for vehicle shopping year-​round.  According to dealer​.com, 2 p.m. Eastern was the most frequent timestamp throughout the year when it came to shoppers starting the car buying experience online."

Car lots can promote their participation in upcoming auto shows in the afternoons too. The latest AudienceSCAN data found 18.8% of New Car/​Truck Shoppers plan to attend auto shows in the next 12 months.

So what do these numbers tell us?

"For one thing, 2016’s shopper traffic data illustrates that while we do see some pretty distinct trends, it’s very difficult – and potentially risky – to paint digital shopping behavior with a broad brush. If Fridays, for example, were such reliably busy shopping days, why was a Sunday in the middle of summer the busiest?"

"Perhaps the most important information gleaned from 2016’s data is that high traffic quantity doesn’t always correlate to high quality traffic. In other words, high web traffic (quantity) means little if that traffic isn’t converting (quality)."

Auto sellers could feature their user-​friendly websites in TV spots to drive online traffic. New Car/​Truck Shoppers are 50% more likely than average consumers to take action after watching a TV commercial, according to AudienceSCAN research!

"This was the case in 2016, where Fridays were the busiest days though they were third from last in terms of conversions. This means there’s significant room for improvement for digital engagement. Dealers need to give consumers a reason to go beyond simple digital window shopping. They need to provide engaging, secure, and transparent online deal-​making tools that meet today’s shoppers’ evolving expectations."

"Digital shopping patterns will evolve over time, and 2017’s data may differ slightly or significantly. But attracting and converting high quality shoppers will remain a goal unchanged."

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.