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What Online Search Reveals About Shopper Behavior

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Mobile technology makes it easy to find answers. You can ask Siri, run a Google search, or consult Alexa. While online searches return answers fast, they also provide invaluable data to marketers and business owners.

Predicting Consumer Behavior

Researchers have found that aggregated search history can be used to predict automotive purchases, so long as the data is controlled for variables like post-purchase searches and fanbase activity.

Several tools allow you to monitor search volume for a given geography, industry, and timeframe. As the world’s number-one search engine, Google has tools (such as Google Trends) for extracting this information.

While search analysis is not feasible for every business given the time and training required, dealers can learn from these expert reports and adjust inventory and strategy accordingly.

Parts and Service Comprises 1/3 of Automotive Searches

Google’s analysis reveals that nearly one-third of all automotive searches are P&S related. When you consider that one in three vehicles on the road today will need significant repair by 2020, it is clear that P&S marketing holds enormous opportunity for dealers.

If you’re questioning the impact of paid search ads, consider the following scenario. You glance at your odometer and notice that you’re due for an oil change. For most, the next step is to pull out a smartphone and start Googling. That’s where your dealership needs to be with enticing offers and relevant ad copy. It’s important that customers see ads that match their search, versus wasting money showing a lease offer, when all the shopper wants is an oil change.

Used Car Sales Increasing Compared to New

It’s no secret that new car margins are becoming increasingly slim. The good news is that used car sales have continued to increase, and search data predicts this trend will continue into 2020.

Market analysts attribute the shift to rising new car prices and less disposable income among the millennial generation. Another factor is the U.S. market’s preference for SUVs and trucks over sedans, leading to a higher average vehicle price.

The good news is that there is a high demand for “gently used” vehicles, meaning those up to four years old. The supply of these vehicles should also be high, given the steady influx of off-lease automobiles.

Learning from Search

Online searches have proven to be a valuable source of insight on consumer intent. Consider these findings, and adjust your inventory and strategy to fit the needs of customers now and in 2020.

Bonus: More Than One Search Engine

This month’s newsletter has focused primarily on data sourced from Google. But another worthwhile source to consider is the world’s number-two search engine: YouTube. The video platform, owned by Google, is also available for analysis using Google Trends. For dealers and marketers, this is an excellent opportunity to predict intent.

Additionally, YouTube’s targeted ads offer the chance to convert would-be DIYers into buyers. In fact, almost one-third of those who watch an automotive maintenance DIY video end up deferring to a professional shop. That is your chance to capture customers with YouTube ads and bring business into your dealership.

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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