Brooke Skinner Ricketts: Current Events and Consumer Car-Shopping Patterns

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Joe Gumm visits with Brooke Skinner Ricketts, Chief Marketing Officer – Cars.com, to discuss the results of the Cars.com 2017 Year in Review, which is compiled by mining and analyzing the site’s real-time behavioral data to determine how consumer car-shopping patterns are affected by current events, pop culture news, and other events in 2017 in the digital automotive marketplace.

Why did Cars.com decide to put together a year in review?

“You know Cars.com is sitting on nearly two decades of data about how and why people shop for cars. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at the macro events that affect car shopping every day — what are the offline events that are influencing online behavior,” Ricketts says.

Some of the most interesting findings of the Cars.com 2017 Year in Review include:

1.The women’s March on March 21, 2017. As millions of women marched across the country on Jan. 21, car shopping stalled – signaling the shift in car-purchasing power to women.   More than 60 percent of women are the sole decision makers when they go car shopping. On the day of the Women’s March, shopper activity was down 8.4 percent.

“Activity went down about 8 percent on that day. It makes sense when you think women affect 60 percent of the purchases,” Ricketts says.

  1. Car shoppers and football fans paused the super bowl to shop for cars. On Feb. 5, New England outshopped Atlanta with 12.3 percent more new-vehicle shopper traffic.

“What we are seeing is that consumers are really reaching out to the third party sites including Cars.com. Folks are really looking for that objective third-party view when they are considering purchases as big as cars.”

  1. American consumers went dark during the 2017 total solar eclipse as eyes were to the sky from coast to coast … except for those shopping the out-of-production Mitsubishi Eclipse.

During the roughly 90 minutes (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central) it took for the eclipse to travel the 2,600 miles across the continent, page views were down 15 percent week over week. There was, however, a 62 percent uptick in searches for used Mitsubishi Eclipses and an 11 percent increase on new Mitsubishi-brand vehicle searched.

What major industry trends do you expect to see in 2018?

“We’ll continue to see a strong consumer demand for transparency. Specifically, with a focus on reviews, consumers are looking at narrow networks for what to buy, who to buy from, when to buy and even how much to pay. The second trend is really connecting with salespeople before they hit the showroom floor. And lastly pricing, we expect to scale in 2018 with consumers more empowered than ever with the information they have access to,” Ricketts says.

Cars.com recently launched a product called Salesperson Connect that helps consumers create that connection with the salesperson so they know who they are dealing with before they even walk in the door of the dealership. Ricketts says Salesperson Connect has been well received by their dealer partners as well.

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