Chicago—November 17, 2008—One-third of dealership visitors who used an independent website did not call or send an email before they came to the store, an innovative study by Cars.com and Synovate found. The study explored the connection between online research activity and offline shopping behavior to understand how consumers use the internet for automotive buying decisions. It also identified the specific websites and website features that most encourage walk-in traffic.
"Tracking email and phone leads alone gives dealers an incomplete picture of how their internet initiatives perform. Now, for the first time, they can calculate the full return on their advertising investment and quantify the traffic and sales their online programs generate," said Dennis Galbraith, Cars.com vice president of advertising products and training. "More than any other source, the web connects dealers with in-market shoppers and encourages them to take direct action. Among dealership visitors who used Cars.com, half planned to purchase or lease a vehicle the same day they went to the store."
This summer and fall, Cars.com and Synovate conducted in-dealership interviews with approximately 700 consumers at 16 stores in 11 East Coast, Midwest and Southern states. Each of the dealerships included in the analysis advertised its listings on Cars.com and AutoTrader.com.
According to the study, one-third of car buyers cited independent websites as a significant influencer affecting their decision to visit a dealership. More than half of shoppers surveyed used an independent website to view vehicle listings; of those, 82 percent visited Cars.com and its online partners. Independent websites were cited twice as often as search engine results and three times more than a dealership website. Competitive pricing, multiple pictures, sell copy and free vehicle history reports were among the online features that most influenced car buyers' choice of dealership.
"As car buyers near the point of purchase, they're looking to validate the vehicle and the dealer they're considering," Galbraith said. "Independent websites can provide the objective reviews and comprehensive tools shoppers rely on to make an informed decision. Dealers who leverage these sites as part of their online strategy and fully merchandise their listings on them position themselves to drive increased traffic and sales among truly ready-to-buy shoppers."
Cars.com is the leading destination for online car shoppers, offering credible, easy-to-understand information from consumers and experts to help buyers formulate opinions on what to buy, where to buy and how much to pay for a car. With comprehensive pricing information, side-by-side comparison tools, photo galleries, videos, unbiased editorial content and a large selection of new- and used-car inventory, Cars.com puts millions of car buyers in control of their shopping process with the information they need to make confident buying decisions.
Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).
Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, generates consumer insights that drive competitive marketing solutions. The network provides clients with cohesive global support and a comprehensive suite of research solutions. Synovate employs over 6,000 staff in 62 countries. More information on Synovate can be found at www.synovate.com.