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TRADER’s Carology event went virtual this year, welcoming dealers, OEM, agency, media and association partners across Canada to glean insight on The Science of Selling Cars. An impressive roster of industry expert speakers shared topics ranging from current and future industry trends, consumer behaviour insights, the car buying journey, and how technology has influenced the automotive industry.

The event was hosted by Ian MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer at TRADER. Ian was joined by speakers from near and far, including Baris Akyurek, Director of Marketing Intelligence at TRADER, Lilian Lau, Vice President of Marketing at TRADER, Chris Schulthies, National Trainer at Wye Management, and Nick King, Director of Insight & Market Research at AutoTrader UK.


The event kicked off with a look into the marketplace performance over the past year. Baris Akyurek gave a view into the spike in traffic to the marketplace, as visits grew +29% year-over-year between May to November 2020 and VDPs increased +22% year-over-year during the same period. He continued to showcase positive trends as well as an outlook on the automotive market, as identified by third-party research, largely due to changes influenced by the pandemic.

Some of the most notable trends included vehicle ownership becoming 3X more desirable compared to ride-share programs and 2X more desirable versus public transportation. Baris shared that the demand to use Digital Retailing during the purchase process has increased amongst car buyers, which set the stage for the information and topics covered by subsequent speakers.


Lilian Lau dove into today’s first-time car buyer and how these specific buyers differ from the experienced buyer. She noted that first-time car buyers are open to influence and often teeter between wanting a used and new car. They typically visit many dealerships, which opens the opportunity for dealers to ensure their online presence does a good job of encouraging them to visit their lot. She stated that when handling first-time buyers, it’s important to put their interests first and make the car purchase process an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Lilian went on to explain that since these buyers are digitally savvy, they are looking for a more simplified buying process and prefer the ability to do more of the process online. Simply put, dealers need to create a seamless experience between online and offline. Based on consumer research studies, she established that the top 3 triggers that drive first-time car buyers to purchase from a dealership are: (a) the availability of financing options, (b) transparent pricing with no hidden fees, and, (c) tools to complete a portion or all of the vehicle purchase online.

The information shared by Lilian logically flowed into both Chris and Nick’s segments, as they further shed light on the techniques, tools and processes dealers can utilize to attract buyers.


Chris and Ian joined in a discussion that provided dealers with valuable tips to enhance the way they operate today. The key message during their talk was for dealers to establish a unique value proposition and to choose, define and stick to a specific business model. Chris explained that the top selling used independent dealerships in Canada have common themes of offering a credible warranty program and a one price selling model, which we learned through Lilian’s presentation is essential for attracting and closing sales opportunities with first-time car buyers.

Chris looks at the ideal sales process in three pillars: informative, transparent, and, faster or more efficient.  He touched on how consistency is fundamental to finding success and outlined the importance to market the unique offerings your dealership provides its shoppers. Chris encouraged each dealership to be consistent with every customer, at every stage of the journey, whether it’s online, over the phone or in the dealership. Some simple yet highly effective takeaways from Chris that dealers could implement right away were showcasing their unique sales process on their dealership website, within their VDPs, in the showroom, and on their social media profiles, in order to make it transparent to car buyers what the experience will look like.


The event concluded with insights from keynote speaker Nick King, Director of Insight & Market Research at AutoTrader UK, who compared much of the car buying experience to other purchases. He explained that consumers expect the buying options they have through one retailor, to be the same in any other life transaction. Backed by mystery shopper research, Nick discovered many flaws and gaps in the car buying journey, that, if prevented, one in three consumers would have bought a car sooner if they had not experienced these pitfalls. Some of these issues included not being acknowledged by sales staff, not following up with a lead, having long wait times in store or on the phone, and not asking if the consumer even wants to buy the car, (or two, or more!).

Similar to Chris, Nick believes in four pillars of success: ease, transparency, speed and simplicity. In order to avoid the aspects of car buying that consumers find challenging, he suggested to allow easy comparison between new and used vehicles, and, understanding what triggered each prospective buyer to want to purchase a car as a means to simplify the buyer’s choice and options. This will help achieve all four pillars of success and ultimately drive the shopper to make the purchase with that particular dealership.

Each year Carology aims to share what it takes to win in an increasingly competitive digital automotive landscape. This year’s Carology was no different, effectively summarizing the trends observed through car buying behaviour across the year, combined with predictions heard over many years, ultimately providing attendees with truly actionable takeaways to implement in their business to help find success in the coming months that will pay off long-term. It all boils down to adapting to what car buyers want –  a simple and transparent car shopping journey.