Path Path

Using the 5 Steps of the Car Shopping Journey

When you’re creating ads or writing content for your dealership website, do you ever consider where your audience is at in their car-shopping journey? Do you spend time thinking about their wants and needs? Do you wonder what questions they have?

If you are, you’re a superstar! If you’re like most people and you’re not, that’s okay too. By the end of this article, you’ll have a general understanding of the 5 steps of the car-shopping journey and a great opportunity to create more meaningful connections with your potential customers.

The following are the broad steps that car shoppers go through when shopping for a car. They come from a Google study from 2015 and are still relevant in today’s automotive market. By better understanding your customer journey, you can create more effective advertising and content that can directly affect your dealership’s bottom line.

The process

Which car is best?

The earliest stage of the car-buying process is when car shoppers are trying to figure out which car is best. According to Millward Brown Digital and Polk, 6 out of 10 shoppers enter the market without knowing which car they want to buy. Buyers in this stage are often searching broadly for brands or body styles with search terms like honda, best pickup truck, nissan trucks.

Typically these searches are captured by manufacturers or review sites. As a dealership, you will find it more difficult to compete for Google search rankings in this category outside of your local area. As this is an earlier touchpoint in the process, you’ll also find that capturing this audience is less fruitful for dealerships than the other categories.

Is it right for me?

After the car shopper has narrowed down their options to one or two models, they begin to assess the practicality of their options. Does this vehicle have all of the features that I’m looking for? Does this vehicle actually fit my lifestyle? This is where more specific searches and content come into play.

Users might search with terms like 2021 honda odyssey seats, honda odyssey pictures, or odyssey vs pacifica. Notice how these searches are a bit more specific and may connect an aspect of the vehicle to the shopper’s lifestyle.

Content that targets users in this part of their buying journey can bear fruit for dealerships that do it well. Create content with good messaging and calls to action that lead shoppers into the next steps of the shopping journey.

Can I afford it?

Once the car shopper has a good idea of which car they want to buy, they start researching the price. Can I afford this car? Should I lease or buy this car? How can I get out of a lease early? What is dealer cash? What is my trade-in worth?

Creating content that focuses more on the purchasing process itself should be a part of your content strategy. Transparency is becoming more and more important. Do not be afraid to educate your customers. The shoppers that seek out this information are going to find it somewhere. Let it be you!

Where should I buy?

Now that the shopper is locked in and ready to make a purchase, they have to find the right dealership. A major part of this process for most people during this stage is to actually show up at your dealership. Common search terms for shoppers are honda dealership near me, nissan phoenix az, best dealerships tucson. Your proximity to the user is a major ranking factor here. 

Make sure that your Google My Business page is set up accurately, as these shoppers are likely to call you or drive to your dealership. Make sure that you’re communicating local offers, your inventory, and any extra benefits you offer to those who make a purchase with you. This is great content to feature on your home page.

Am I getting a deal?

At this stage of the process, you’re already working with the customer. Whether in-person or online, no deal is done until it’s done. Shoppers at this stage of the process are searching for terms like new car interest rates, monthly payment on new civic, etc. They are probably doing this while already at your dealership! Capturing this extremely high-converting audience is a great opportunity for dealerships that are willing to be transparent.

Get started

The next time you plan an ad campaign or content marketing strategy, consider the steps of the car-shopping process. Align your content with search terms that are relevant to where your user is at in their journey. The extra effort goes a long way.


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