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How are Automotive Customers Shopping in a Pandemic?

Car saleswoman with a mask on in a dealership

In 2020, automotive dealers have seen a lot of things change. In the beginning, it was the shutdowns. Many wondered if they would survive the sudden dip in revenue. But as the ice began to thaw on the pandemic lockdowns, dealers started noticing that shopping habits had changed, too.

Right now, some dealers are having their best profit months to date. But we’re not quite out of the woods with COVID-19. This fall, SAM surveyed 1,500 automotive buyers to find out what had changed for buyers in 2020. You can use this data to understand what motivates today’s buyer and make sure your dealership is appealing to their new demands.

How Willing Are Customers to Shop at a Dealership?

Showrooms may have reopened, but does that mean customers feel safe coming back in person? The data seems to say so. 

In our study, nearly 4 in 5 buyers said they were somewhat or completely willing to shop for a vehicle at a dealership right now. Out of the factors that made them feel comfortable shopping, disinfection and COVID-19 safety procedures were ranked as most important. 

Digging deeper, we found that this preference changed with regard to age and gender. Older respondents (ages 65+) were notably more likely to say they will not shop in the next 12 months. The same was true for female buyers.

Males and those with higher educations (college and above) seemed the most enthusiastic about the future, as they are more likely to shop in the next 12 months.

These findings are important to keep in mind when planning your strategic marketing messages. With digital marketing especially, it is easy to segment customers by age and gender. You can create custom messages that appeal more specifically to each segment’s priorities and concerns.

Related: Inbound Marketing Helps Dealers During the Pandemic

Where Are Customers Getting Their Information?

It should come as no surprise that practically everyone is using the internet as their go-to source of vehicle information, including older buyers. But with this data, we can also break it down a little further to see more granular trends.

Males are more likely to use online media to search for vehicles. In-person sources, like dealership personnel and friends’ opinions, are the second-most prevalent source of vehicle information. Females are more likely than males to rely on these in-person sources.

Again, you can tailor your messaging around the preferences of these different segments. A higher digital media budget for males could increase your traffic, whereas touting reviews and testimonials about customer service could be more appealing for female customers.

Understanding your customer base is a huge part of ensuring you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to marketing. Stay tuned as we release more insights from Strong Automotive Merchandising’s Dealership Motivations Survey.

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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