Having a well established digital car sales funnel is key to establishing a high performing car dealership. Why? Because the most common customer paths to purchasing a vehicle are digital. 90% of car buyer journeys happen on a digital device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This means that having a strong online presence is vital for your dealership’s success.

Understanding the Online Car Buyer Journey

In order to map out your online marketing strategy, you need to have an understanding of the typical journey a car buyer has online. We’ve broken it down into 4 stages.

1. Market Consideration

The first stage of the shopper’s buying process is when they have developed a need to purchase a car. The shopper hasn’t decided what car to buy or where to buy it from. They are just about to begin their research process to explore their options.

The research process during the market consideration stage includes:

• Using a search engine like Google

• Browsing a third-party site

• Seeing an online ad

• Asking family, friends, and coworkers for insight

• Viewing test-drive videos

• Reading consumer reviews online

• Searching an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) website

Within all of these digital touchpoints, the buyer is just observing and browsing, they are not clicking in to buy a car or schedule a test drive. However, this exposure is still pushing them along the sales funnel.

2. Model Consideration

The second stage of the car buyer’s journey is deciding what type of vehicle they are looking for, this automatically narrows their options and, of course, what they’re searching for online.

The shopper will now potentially interact with experts online to help them with their search.

The common activities during the model consideration stage include:

• Searching vehicle models online

• Researching vehicle models

• Clicking on an online ad

• Viewing photos on dealership websites

• Reading dealership reviews

3. Dealership Consideration

The third stage is where the car buyer has a stronger idea of what they want. They have defined their budget as well as the brand and model they’re looking for. This is the stage where you need to work to convince them to buy from you.

The common activities during the dealership consideration stage include:

• Revisiting a dealership’s website

• Asking for an online quote

• Applying for financing

• Messaging or texting the sales team

• Leaving a comment on a car listing

This phase is still happening online. Your leads are starting to get an opinion of your dealership by visiting your website and your social media. As well as based off of your online interaction with them.

4. Deal Consideration

The final stage of the car buying process is when the shopper reaches out to you and is very close to buying.

The common activities during the deal consideration stage include:

• Visiting a dealership

• Test-driving a vehicle

• Completing the purchase at the dealership

• Sharing photos on social media

• Leaving reviews on Google and Facebook

Key Take Away

When setting up an online marketing strategy for your dealership, make sure you are targeting car shoppers at every stage of the buying process. Taking the time to review your analytics to see the performance of your marketing channels as well as to understand user behaviors is the best way to understand and improve your online dealership sales funnel.


We help dealerships build their online marketing funnels with online advertising.

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