Study: Car buyers don’t look to social media for info

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Despite being constantly bombarded by tweets, Facebook posts and social media ads, young customers shopping for new cars and trucks still turn to dealers as their primary source of information, a new study shows.

MaritzCX, a data company that conducts a yearly new vehicle customer survey, found that social media plays a minor role when customers under the age of 35 are researching a new vehicle. After surveying more than 60,000 people, the company found dealers, friends and family and consumer guides were the most trusted sources of information.

“There can be that perception that social media is the next best thing,” said Chris Travell, vice president, automotive research group, for MaritzCX. “But what we found was the biggest determinate was the salesperson by far.

Rounding out the top five most important sources of information were automakers’ own websites, followed by published safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Safety Administration.

Most major automakers and dealer groups are very active on social media, whether posting pictures on Instagram, or interacting with customers on Twitter or Facebook. Travell said that, despite the study’s findings, social media can be important for raising initial awareness about a vehicle, but manufacturers still need real salespeople to close the deal.

“I’m not saying a reversal of ad budgets, but it shows the importance of training initiatives,” he said.

Mobile apps also scored low in MaritzCX’s study; only 0.7 percent of responders felt it was an important source of information.

In a survey released last year, car-shopping website said 95 percent of those in their 20s and early 30s do their car shopping online — and 50 percent use their smartphones, up significantly from previous years. While researching, the would-be buyers visit third-party sites — like AutoTrader or Edmunds — 51 percent of the time and go to dealerships less often.

Travell said mobile apps are still important, but they must be supplemented by actual salespeople.

“Salespeople should use that technology as an enabler,” Travell said. “It’s the personal interaction that customers are still looking for; people buy from people.”

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Information sources

These are the most influential sources of information for new-car buyers:

■Salesperson at the dealership: 21.5%

■Family/friend/word of mouth: 18.8%

■Consumer guides: 13.7%

■Dealer’s/manufacturer’s websites: 8.3%

■Safety ratings: 7.9%

■Third-party sites: 6.5%

■Automotive magazine/newspaper reviews: 4.7%

■TV ads: 3.6%

■Dealer’s/manufacturer’s brochures: 2.8%

■Auto shows: 1.8%

■Chat rooms/blogs/forums: 1.5%

■Direct mail from dealers: 1.4%

■Automotive TV shows: 1.3%

■Dealer/manufacturer-sponsored event: 1.3%

■Online videos: 1.3%

■Magazine/newspaper ads: 1.0%

■Mobile apps: 0.7%

■E-mail from dealer/manufacturer: 0.6%

■Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn: 0.4%

■Radio ads: 0.3%

■Outdoor ads: 0.3%

■Twitter: 0.2%

Source: MartizCX