It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has had an impact on the automotive market. While many expect car sales in the short term may be lower than usual, there are strong signals that buyers are still very much in market and doing research. For example, on the AutoTrader.ca marketplace during the week of Mar. 23, 2020, we saw around 3.5 million sessions and 10.7 million VDPs (vehicle detail pages) generated by almost 2 million users – that’s a massive number of online shoppers in one week across the country!
We wanted to understand how COVID-19 has affected consumers attitudes and shopping behaviour, both now and in a post-COVID-19 world. Surveying 1,000 respondents across the country over the past few days, the results make for interesting read for anyone connected to the automotive industry in Canada. To set the stage, over 73% of Canadians are following the news of COVID-19. Meaning, most of the population is staying informed and are aware of the current circumstances surrounding the virus.
How has Purchase Intent Changed?
Looking at all respondents, 2/5 of them say that their likelihood to purchase a car has increased or stayed the same since the pandemic began.
But incredibly, a full 50% of those intenders said their urgency to buy had stayed the same or even increased.
For dealers, the takeaways must be two-fold; firstly, ensure your inventory can be found by consumers during this time, by both researchers and active buyers.
Secondly, do all you can to help prospects engage remotely with you – if you offer options which respect physical distancing, such as home delivery or live chat, make the consumer fully aware. Nurture any inbound leads carefully and use strategies to keep communicating with them until they are ready to buy.
Ridesharing & Public Transport Impacts
Since the beginning of the pandemic in Canada, reported rideshare usage has decreased by 65% along with 81% less people reporting no longer using public transit services. This is due in part to people not needing to travel to work and taking the necessary precautions to be physically distant and slow the spread of illness that comes along with being in confined spaces.
But has the current situation affected their likelihood to continue to use these transportation services once the pandemic has concluded? Based on what consumers told us, yes it does.
When asked if they will revert to their previous methods of transportation after COVID-19, 70% of consumers say they do not plan on using ride share services again and 40% of those who previously used public transportation do not plan on continuing to do so. The reasons given by respondents include the flexibility car ownership provides (44% agree), personal space (36%) and control of cleanliness and hygiene (33%).
The most interesting findings for the automotive industry would surely be that 14% of people who do not currently own a vehicle, now plan on purchasing one as a direct result of COVID-19. Consumers that were relying on rideshare programs say they are 4X more likely to now own their own vehicle instead. Of those who used public transportation, 62% of consumers now find it more desirable to purchase their own vehicle.
What these results suggest overall is that car ownership will be more desirable post COVID-19. Transportation habits may be changing and as a result, dealers need to be available online over the next few weeks, and months as consumers begin their search for a vehicle. There will be many first-time vehicle purchasers who may need some extra guidance and education on buying and owning a vehicle, so be sure your salespeople are equipped to provide them with the service they need. While you may not have as much foot traffic on your lot right now, they are coming, and they are currently online.
Author Ian MacDonald, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, TRADER Corporation
Source: AutoTrader.ca COVID-19 Consumer Attitudinal Study. Google Surveys n=1000