Google’s 16th annual Think Auto (and its second online edition) kicked off with Al-Karim Awadia, Head of Industry – Auto at Google Canada, sharing several key insights during his session. Some of the key takeaways for TRFFK team and dealers alike were pandemic-triggered changes to the industry.
Queries for buying a car online only continue to rise throughout the pandemic (something that the AutoTrader.ca team has also been reporting). This underlines the importance of digital retailing and digital advertising to capture all those in-market shoppers as they proceed through their car buying journey.
“It’s important to continue with your online advertising plan as usual even if there are inventory shortages. We’ve been advising our dealer-clients with several different strategies to tide over the current phase of high demand and low supply. This is the time to establish a bond with car buyers and make them trust you. Car buyers are willing to wait longer these days to get the model and trim they’re looking for,” adds Benoit Laforce, General Manager – TRFFK.
Not only did post-pandemic realities shape online search volumes but also changed the purchase trigger itself for several first-time buyers. Awadia shared how COVID created the need for 19% of first-time car buyers (10% for new and 9% of used car buyers). At the same time, maintaining inventory levels in Canada is becoming increasingly difficult and used vehicle pricing continues to rise.
“Dealers across the country have been struggling with inventory, especially from last summer. Reduced capacity at auction houses, lower volumes of trade-ins and off-lease vehicles as well as US dealer interest in Canadian inventory have resulted in scarcity of preowned vehicles pushing used car prices up. We have provided Trader and TRFFK’s dealer clients facing this challenge with customized solutions,” says Laforce.
Close to 60% of car buyers are spending less than a month in their car buying journey – with 38% buying in less than two weeks. This is being triggered by an almost-entirely online customer car buying journey – in an environment dominated by digital retailing and inventory shortages making buyers purchase their preferred new or used vehicle as soon as possible.
“If you’ve managed to keep your used inventory rolling, you’re in a good spot to sell them out within days of listing. If a buyer likes your online merchandising, vehicle pricing and option to do a full/ partial transaction on your digital retailing website, you’ll ride this wave of uncertainty and even garner more marketshare than previously possible,” remarks Laforce.
Search & online video continue to become more useful in 2021 than they ever previously were (including 2020). Awadia pointed out that 3 out of 4 car buyers discover their car online, underscoring the value of dealer websites in the research process. Moreover, latest data showed how Search engines have become indispensable to the buying journey during the pandemic along with online video (OLV).
“Between 2020 and 2021, Search usage has gone up considerably. For dealers, store visits and test drives are still crucial but it’s imperative to close the digital divide with digital retailing and merchandising – and soon. Dealers also need to have robust YouTube content as well as maintain a good library of model-specific content on websites.
“Even AutoTrader.ca has been seeing a similar organic growth Y-o-Y given the fact that the marketplace offers Canada’s widest selection of new and pre-owned vehicles as well as access to the largest audience of serious auto intenders. In the month of August, AutoTrader.ca eclipsed yet another visits milestone – this time reaching 25.7 million visits nationwide,” says Laforce.
— Sparsh Sharma – Digital Strategist Manager, TRFFK