New study measures from media buy to auto buy

From the first digital touchpoint, advertisers often have several weeks to make an impression – but once the dealership visits start, the clock is ticking to target.

When it comes to bridging the gap between online browsing and auto purchases, marketers aren’t necessarily racing in a high-speed chase – rather, they have to play the long game.

According to a new study by MiQ (formerly MediaIQ), most auto buyers (37%) make their first dealership visit between two and three weeks from their first digital touchpoint. Close by is the 27% who make a visit three to four weeks after their first digital touchpoint. Additionally, 14% wait more than a month to visit a dealership.

Canadians are less likely to visit a dealership less than two weeks after their first touchpoint; only 8% visit within one and two weeks and 17% within the week.

Within those several weeks, though, dealers face a lot of competition; shoppers are less likely to visit many dealerships. Just under 50% only visit one dealership in person, and that total halves to 25% for those visiting two dealerships. Less than 20% visit three dealerships.

But for those who do visit multiple dealerships, there are common paths; among economy brands, the most popular path of visits is Honda, followed by Ford (an average of 24 hours later) and finally Toyota (an average of 12 hours later). Luxury brands usually have shorter windows; the most common path is BMW, followed by Mercedes-Benz an average of 2.5 hours later, then by Lexus an average of 8.5 hours later. MiQ’s study points out that this is an opportunity for advertisers to use geographically targeted ad buys in order to capitalize on that varying time window.

Advertisers may also consider activating based on weather patterns; shoppers are unlikely to visit a dealership or book a test drive if the temperature is under 7ºC. While the cold doesn’t drive people out to dealerships easily, neither does extreme heat; visit likelihood peaks at 22ºC (9% likelihood) and goes down from there; at 27ºC shoppers are just as likely to visit a dealership as they are when it’s under 0ºC.

For test drives, shoppers reach their peak likelihood at 14ºC.

Unsurprisingly, search plays a big part in the purchase journey; different ages and genders have different search preferences. Women over-index on hatchback and SUV/crossover searches and under-index most on sedans, motorcycles and trucks. Men over-index most on motorcycles and sedans (and, contrary to common stereotypes, men are more likely to search for minivans than women).

For age groups, the under-24 crowd is most active in searching for Volvo (25%), Mercedes (24%) and Honda (23%) and least likely to search for Chevrolet (5%) or Chrysler (1%). Older millennials (25 to 34) are more varied in their searches and don’t have particularly high rates of search for any model, although they are still very unlikely to search for Chrysler (1%), as well as Ford.

The 35- to 44-cohort are also picky, with low rates of search for most domestic brands. However, this is the cohort that embraces Chrysler (45% of searches), while also searching more actively for foreign makes such as Volvo (24%) and Mercedes (25%). Older Gen Xers, meanwhile, are almost equally likely to search for all car makes, with the exception of Chrysler (6%) and Volvo (5%).

Baby boomers, however, appear just as choosy as millennials, with few brands getting over 20% of searches.