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NADA offers profile of the online shopper

November 12, 2010

Today’s online car shoppers aren’t much different from traditional car shoppers, but shopping behavior has undergone a revolution. Dealers must provide consumers with complete information online, and they should be prepared to respond quickly, accurately, and fully to every request for information—which is not always just about price.

Today, online shoppers are everyone. If they can point and click, they’re shopping for cars on the Internet. So while there no longer is a "typical" Internet shopper, online shoppers do share key characteristics:

• Internet consumers are motivated by convenience and control.

• They are informed. They visit various Web sites to determine MSRP, invoice price, available promotions and discounts, available features and options, performance parameters, average annual maintenance costs, and other factors. They often are as informed, if not more informed, about the vehicle they are buying as the sales representative selling it.

• They are committed to the online shopping experience and demand the same of the dealers with whom they do business. Thus, they expect thoughtful responses to their e-mails and phone calls, and they expect quick responses with answers to their questions. But they don’t always get what they ask for. Online car shoppers who ask for the price of a new vehicle are given this information less than 25 percent of the time, while only 13 percent are given information about the benefits of a particular brand or vehicle, according to one study.

• According to the same study, 20 percent of consumers will go somewhere else if they do not receive a response within four hours. The average response time currently is more than five hours.

• Many dealers mistakenly think that online shoppers are visiting dealer site after dealer site, trying to find the lowest price possible. While price clearly affects a shopper’s final purchase decision and should always be included on your site, there are many other factors that influence online car shoppers’ buying decisions. These buyers understand that a dealer has to make a fair profit, and they will often pay for convenience and other perks they find valuable in the shopping/buying experience.

This article is adapted from "A Dealer Guide to Leveraging the Internet to Drive Sales," available through NADA University’s Resource Toolbox.