DETROIT – Three different types of Internet car shopping emerge from data tracking by AutoTrader.com, an online marketplace.

The distinct groups consist of:

  • Buyers who cast a wide net as they consider various vehicles before finally deciding what to buy. They are vigorous cross-shoppers.
  • Direct and determined consumers who pretty much bee-line to a vehicle selection. “Some people, not many, know what they want right away,” says Rick Wainschel, AutoTrader’s vice president-automotive insights.
  • Price shoppers seeking the best deal possible. “Everyone is price-sensitive, but this group is really price-sensitive,” he says.

Cross-shoppers are the biggest of the three groups, consisting of 65% of car consumers online. Their computer sessions also are longer and they take more time to buy.

Within 15 days of purchase, they begin looking at dealer websites and narrowing vehicle selections but still “are looking at secondary considerations,” Wainschel says at a meeting of Motor City marketers. “All along the way, they are open to lots of different things.”

Within five days, they are closing in on a vehicle choice and deciding where to purchase it.

Sixty-two percent of people who buy cross/utility vehicles are the most active cross-shoppers, according to AutoTrader’s data tracking that uses cookies and tags assigned to computers without learning user identities.

“They are all over the place,” Wainschel says of CUV buyers’ shopping behavior. “In and out of different segments, looking at luxury cars, looking at new and used.”

Making up 12% of online shoppers are those who typically know what they want and do little or no cross-shopping as a result. The ones who are acutely price-sensitive represent 9%  

Although brand loyalty has waned in recent years, it hasn’t disappeared and flexes muscle here and there.

Forty-six percent of Ford Fusion midsize sedan buyers are “brand believers,” Wainschel says. “How do we know they are brand believers? Because Ford dominates their (online shopping) activity.”

When cross-shopping, Fusion buyers tend to check out other Ford models, such as the Edge CUV and Focus compact and F-150 pickup.

Marketers shouldn’t take brand believers for granted, assuming their purchase of a particular make and model is a sealed deal.

In marketing to believers, “keep them in your camp, reinforce existing interest, accelerate the purchase and stave off the competition,” Wainschel says.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com