This isn’t how your father bought his Oldsmobile. Thanks to technology, buying cars has undergone a complete makeover.

Scottsdale-based Digital AirStrike is in the business of keeping automaker’s factories humming by sharing what’s on buyers’ minds. The fifth annual Automotive Social Media Trends Study by the automotive social media and digital engagement company highlights consumer behaviors.

This was done by weighing activity on social networks, review sites and mobile devices related to the car shopping, buying and service experiences. The results signal what consumers expect of auto dealerships’ social presence, online reputation, and overall digital engagement.

The data reveals consumers are doing more than clicking “like.” They’re thinking. “This year's study reveals that consumers are more engaged than ever before in terms of using social media and review sites as the primary tools to select a dealership,” says Alexi Venneri, co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike. “Facebook continues to grow in importance as a go to local marketing and advertising partner for dealerships.

The study includes findings from 2,000 car buyers and 2,000 service customers who purchased or serviced a vehicle within the previous six months. It covers all major U.S. geographic regions and represents domestic and foreign automotive brands, with even distribution across age and gender groups. “The study provides an indicator of emerging social networks and review sites that are moving from challenger to top tier sites for car shopper, buyer and owner consideration," Venneri says.

Top trends revealed in the study include: 


Three-quarters of car buyers and 68% of service customers say Internet research, including social media and review sites, was the most helpful medium when selecting a car dealership.


Buyers ranked social networks as more important than dealership websites in their dealership selection process:


Half ranked review sites as the most influential dealership selection tool (up from 45% over the prior year).


- 18% ranked review sites and a dealership's website as equally influential.
- 16% ranked a dealership's website as most influential (down from 19% over the prior year).


97% of service customers and 96% of car buyers feel a dealership needs to have at least a four-star rating or higher on review sites to have a "good rating."


83% of service customers surveyed say online review sites substantially helped them in their dealership selection process. and were ranked by car buyers as the top/most helpful review sites, followed by Google+ and Yelp. Facebook rounded out the top five.


Facebook ads continue to gain use and awareness. Two-thirds of car buyers/shoppers or owners who have seen a Facebook ad say they have clicked on it, up from one-third in 2014.


Vehicle incentives and coupons on social media are big draws, as 45% of car buyers and 30% of service customers says they would "check-in" at a car dealership on Facebook to take advantage of various promotions.


Consumers looking to purchase or service a vehicle are doing their research primarily online, with half of recent car buyers and 69% of service customers saying they only visited one dealership before buying/servicing. The statistics affirm a continued trend that consumers now only virtually shop dealers online vs. in person.


Three-quarters of car buyers and 63% of service customers would travel up to 60 miles to do business at a dealership with good reviews, stressing the importance of a positive online reputation and how it can expand a dealer's primary market area.


These results are invaluable to an auto industry that has weathered economic cycles that have led to a vastly changed playing field. Digital Air Strike has industry-specific software and a managed service platform that monitors, improves and manages consumer engagement.

Digital Air Strike is ranked in the top third of all Inc. Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the country and works with six of the largest auto original equipment manufacturers, dozens of the top dealer groups, and thousands of retail dealerships across the United States and Canada.


Photo Credit: Pixabay