Online consumer engagement showing indications of industry rebound


Car shoppers are continuing a slow but steady push back to normal purchasing practices, according to analysis of marketing data by Comscore in a press release issued Tuesday, and used car shopping is where the greatest interest growth has occurred. How customers are shopping, however, has changed dramatically from in-person to online, helping retailers and marketing professionals better understand and plan.

Comscore assists industry players to plan, transact, and evaluate media success across all platforms, including in the automotive industry. Recent data has indicated that used car interest has been elevated to surprising levels year-over-year, undoubtedly due to the shift online in light of the pandemic.

Increased Online Engagement Evident

Data that Comscore brought to light includes Carvana’s online traffic which, as of August 2020, has seen a 58% increase in visitors to the online auto retailing site over the previous year’s figures. During that same time frame, users have engaged with Carvana’s ‘Car Finder’ tool nearly three time more. Analysis also reveals that more new car shoppers are also browsing on Carvana.

Other examples also offer an abundance of insight into the car buying journey for Americans. August brought the highest engagement to date for, and on the shoulders of Jeep and Ram customers. Ford Motor Company also saw a pronounced elevation in online traffic on from shoppers engaging with the ‘Build and Price’ tool, specifically for the Bronco and Bronco Sport models set to arrive at dealerships.

Going further than just online browsing, shoppers have driven sales for popular model into record number territory. As of August, models like the Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Honda CR-V, and Jeep Grand Cherokee have bested their highest sales for the year.

Comscore Vice President of Commercial, Dennis Bulgarelli, says, “Automakers have thus far done a decent job responding to the challenges of the pandemic —supporting and incentivizing consumers, implementing new safety protocols to get plants reopened, and working with dealers to launch novel shopping experiences both online and in person. In order for auto makers to continue to reach buyers, it remains critical for them to adapt to the changing consumer behavior during the pandemic.”

How Dealers Can Respond

While much of the data in the press release surrounds data from corporate websites, it can be inferred that the same elevated traffic is being seen – or should be experienced – by dealer websites, but for a different purpose.

Dealership websites are a crucial stage in the car-buying journey as shoppers shift from researching models and features to an inventory search. Once on the dealership website, consumers are higher intent, further into the sales funnel, and must be engaged to keep their interest high and their frustration low.

Of course, new car shoppers are pursuing some of the best financing rates in history and cash incentives that make buying a car almost irresistible. Still, dealers can take them a step further by asking the right questions and offering the right solutions online.

One such call to action could be, “Find Out Which Incentives You Qualify For”. Most consumers aren’t well-versed on stackable versus non-stackable incentives nor are they aware of all the programs offered for Armed Forces members, recent grads, or the Heroes bonuses offered.

In terms of customer experience, ensuring that web pages load quickly – especially on mobile – will help keep customers from becoming frustrated and abandoning the website in favor of a competitor’s.

Online engagement is going to continue its pattern of growth and dealers will need to focus their efforts on their role in the car buying journey, especially for the high-intent customer.

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