What Car? Insight weekly update – week three

Less window shopping: buyers in current market are super-qualified

This is the third in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive.

HAVE WE BEGUN to turn a corner? Snapshots of data are notoriously hard to read too much into, but increasingly the signs are that there are opportunities now for anyone open for business online.

The dramatic ‘shock’ slowdown in leads witnessed from 13 to 26 March has stabilised in the intervening weeks; at What Car?, through our New Car Buying platform, we’re now seeing a ‘lockdown normal’ of approximately 25-30% of pre-coronavirus levels of enquiries from buyer to dealers.

Yes, that means there are fewer prospects. However, crucially, our data shows us that there is also substantially less ‘window shopping’ too. If someone is looking, they are looking to buy, and as a result, our leads are more qualified than ever.

Since the start of March, we’ve recorded a 20% improvement in the ratio of ‘first stage’ enquiries (those enquiring about the best deals from our partners for a particular model) to generating leads. This is also reflected in changing consumer behaviour on the website in the past week. During the past seven days, nearly a third of visitors said the primary purpose of their visit was to research new cars and read reviews – up by a substantial 11.5% on the week before. What’s more, the week-on-week jump of 42% in people seeking corona-related advice is driven by 73.5% of these visitors specifically seeking information on the availability of new cars from dealers.

The public is – slowly but now quite clearly – swinging back into new car research and purchase mode. This is why 4.8% continue to tell us they are still intent on buying within the next four weeks and 12% want to complete within three months. Also of note, the latter figure is up 49% on last week.

The final piece of evidence of this mindset shift can be seen in the not-to-be-ignored number of people looking to buy in six months’ time, which is down 15% since the start of Easter Weekend. It seems likely that this timeframe – the longest offered in our survey – is being used by visitors unable to see an end in sight to lockdown. As increasingly they can envisage it’s end, so they are committing to a shorter purchase cycle.

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As I say, I’m cautious about analysing data on a weekly basis like this as blips can be… just blips. However, these findings are consistent with trends we’ve seen in our data for three weeks now, and talking to industry colleagues it is clear that they are being mirrored elsewhere around the industry.

Reviews research increasing by the day

Behaviour during the past week continues to be hard to read because of the four-day weeks before and after Easter, but there have been some significant shifts in whatcar.com traffic over the weekend. Firstly, interest in our weekly SUV deals story – which highlights our best Target Price savings on these popular models – grew exponentially. Since lockdown began, interest in all our deals stories has, understandably, shrunk significantly; this is the first sign of a turnaround, indicating that heavy researching and purchasing are back on the agenda.

Underlining this is a clear upwards shift in-page impressions and the percentage of all-site impressions to our car reviews – as sure a sign as you’ll get that car buyers are starting to research again. We are still well below normal levels, but the upward curve is pronounced and accelerating.

Sell your cars online for free

Online selling is very much a buzz phrase in our industry right now, and of course I want to remind you that you can sell to What Car?’s audience through our New Car Buying platform for free during the coronavirus lockdown.

There’s no tie-in period and no charge; of course we hope you’ll like what you find, but our priority as a business now is to both give our users a good experience and do everything we can to get the industry back on its feet.

For more information:

Call 020 8267 4138 or email support@whatcar.com

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