Where Is Car Shopper Attention During Coronavirus?

Digital Marketing, Industry News

Let’s face it: With all the uncertainty around Coronavirus, we’re all too well aware that most consumers aren’t actively looking for cars right now.

In a weekly survey of shoppers looking to buy within the next 6 months, Cox Automotive found that the amount of auto intenders who were delaying an automobile purchase had increased from 7% to 35% in just 3 weeks.

What about traffic? Are shoppers still browsing dealership sites and 3rd party listings?

We aggregated research from industry experts to help find out where auto shopper attention is going, and where it’s dragging behind…

Endemic and 3rd party listing sites experiencing a flux

In an article released on April 3, 2020, Dealer Inspire reported downward trends in unique active shoppers across CARS® audiences, including Cars.com and DealerRater. 

Meanwhile, Cox Automotive reported a similar decline in traffic for other key endemic sites such as AutoTrader, KBB.com and Dealer.com in the first few weeks of March.

Thankfully, Cox also reported that traffic seems to be slowly increasing again as of March 31st.

“Online shopping started to improve in the middle of last week and continues to improve in the latest data that we see,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke.

“AutoTrader saw a 7% gain in VDP views over the past weekend over the prior weekend; KBB saw an 11% gain this past weekend; Dealer.com…saw a deceleration over the weekend in traffic declines that were much worse 2 weeks ago.”

Dealership traffic and Google search volume trending down

Dealer Inspire also reported downward trends in dealer website traffic and leads based on tracking unique daily visitors across over 3,500 dealer websites nationwide.

Source: Dealer Inspire – “New Data: Opportunity For Dealers As COVID-19 Shakes Up Traffic Across Industries

They noted similar Google search trends across their customers and partners as well.

Using Google Trends reports over the last 30 days, we also found that search volume on Google is down from shoppers actively searching for terms like, “dealer near me” and “used car.”

So if auto intenders aren’t actively searching for a car right now and are delaying purchases, where should dealerships be investing their ad dollars to reach them?

Facebook usage on the rise

Unsurprisingly, social media sites are garnering more attention as more and more users are social distancing and staying at home.

According to a blog post on Facebook.com, Facebook is seeing an extreme spike in usage across the globe due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The article states, “The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day. Much of the increased traffic is happening on our messaging services, but we’ve also seen more people using our feed and stories products to get updates from their family and friends.”

Compared to some of the 3rd party sites, Facebook is clearly experiencing more search volume and activity right now.

And while classified listing auto traffic is somewhat declining, Facebook Marketplace continues to have an upward trajectory as well.

Source: Google Trends – This chart shows Facebook Marketplace search popularity over the past 12 months compared to the top 3 leading 3rd party listing providers.

One thing we love about Facebook is that it serves as a proactive channel for advertisers to use to reach their audience.

Dealerships don’t have to wait for shoppers to search for “car dealer near me,” but can instead send their latest messaging out to any shopper in a 15 mile radius from their store.

If you ask us (or Steven Stauning), Facebook is one channel you don’t want to be without in today’s quickly-changing market.

Maximizing attention with the right messaging

People are using Facebook and Instagram now, more than ever, to seek the latest news updates, stay in touch with family and friends, and simply kill time.

Shoppers will recognize which companies in their local communities are there to support them, and keep them safe, versus the ones that are pushing “buy, buy, buy.”

Therefore, you may need to shift your strategy away from asking shoppers to submit leads or come to your lot and test drive a car.

Instead, show them that you’re there as a resource for them: if their car breaks down, or they need an oil change, or yes — if they do want to buy a new car — you’ll be there.

“Previously I know we all focus on the bottom of the funnel, how many leads can we get in, how many leads can we close,” said Brent Parres, Partner Manager at Facebook Automotive during the State of Automotive webinar last week.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to refocus and think of ‘How can I push my brand, my dealership as a brand in this local community that I’m in? How can I stand out from the competition and show that I care about my community?’ While you can do both, I think the messaging for anything on the bottom of the funnel needs to take that branding approach.”

Use Facebook to inexpensively saturate your local community with messaging around:

  • If and when your dealership is open
  • What safe services you’re offering
  • What precautions you’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (sanitization, at-home services, etc.)

Want more ideas on how dealerships are effectively messaging during COVID-19? Click here to check out our article, “State of Automotive Dealer-Panel: 5 Key Takeaways and 19 Tips To Come Out Ahead”!

Show your community that your dealership is there for them and you care about their well-being, so that when the dust from this pandemic finally settles, you’re positioned well in your PMA.

Looking for more COVID-19 Resources to help your dealership?

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Blog Author - Drew Detweiler

Written By Drew Detweiler
Drew manages inbound and outbound marketing for Dealers United. When he’s not at work, he’s probably enjoying the outdoors, fishing, or eating.

Register for the webinar, “The 3 Biggest Facebook Mistakes Even Advanced Dealer Marketers Are Making”!