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Consumers who do more Internet car shopping also visit more dealerships

October 24, 2014
New-vehicle buyers who spend the most time on the Internet shopping for a vehicle also visit the most dealerships to shop prior to purchase, the J.D. Power 2014 New Autoshopper Study found.
The study analyzes how new-vehicle buyers use digital devices (computers, smartphones, and tablets) to gather information prior to purchase, as well as which websites and apps they use during the shopping process. The study refers to new-vehicle buyers who use the Internet during their shopping process as automotive Internet users, or AIUs.
On average, AIUs spend nearly 14 hours on the Internet shopping for a vehicle prior to purchase. Those who spend 12 hours or more on the Internet visit an average of 3.3 dealers before making a decision. AIUs who spend a moderate amount of time shopping on the Internet (5 to 11 hours), visit an average of 2.5 dealers prior to purchase; those who spend less time on the Internet visit an average of 2.0 dealers.
"There may be a notion in the marketplace that the more auto shoppers use the Internet to determine which vehicle to buy, the fewer dealers they are inclined to shop, yet we see just the opposite," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media & marketing at J.D. Power. "New-vehicle buyers who do a great deal of automotive Internet shopping also go to more dealerships to shop."
Key Findings
• An overwhelming majority (96 percent) of AIUs use their desktop/laptop computer for automotive research. Thirty percent of AIUs employ a tablet device — up from 25 percent in last year’s J.D. Power study — and 28 percent use a smartphone to conduct their research, an increase from 23 percent in 2013.
• Nearly 80 percent of AIUs visit a third-party website to obtain automotive information. Users of third-party sites indicate that vehicle pricing and vehicle ratings and reviews are the most useful information found on these websites.
• Additionally, a majority of AIUs visit at least one manufacturer brand website when shopping for a vehicle. They indicate that brand sites are most useful for their model information, vehicle configurators, and photo galleries.
Shoppers Combine Physical, Cyber Visits
The practice of using a personal device while actually at a dealership has gained popularity, as 34 percent of AIUs said they use either a smartphone or tablet while shopping at dealerships, up from 29 percent in 2013. Vehicle pricing is the information most frequently accessed on a personal device at dealerships (61 percent), followed by model information (42 percent), searching inventory (40 percent), and special offers/incentives (36 percent). Among AIUs who use a mobile device to access vehicle pricing information at their dealership of purchase, 84 percent leverage the information in the negotiation process, with 73 percent saying they obtained a better deal as a result.
According to Power’s Walker: "The phenomenon of ‘showrooming’ at new-vehicle dealerships, where potential buyers use their mobile devices to verify information and price shop while at the dealership, will continue to grow. Shoppers are gathering information digitally up to the moment the deal is signed, which underscores the need for ensuring mobile websites and apps have up-to-date and accurate information. 
"Dealers need to accept and embrace this practice as the new status quo and provide complete transparency with price, value, and product offering in order to build trust with these savvy new-vehicle shoppers. If not, dealers could lose these customers to the competition."