Part 7: Updated “Automotive Insights We’ve Discovered During COVID-19 Economy” – Consumer Buying Activity Increasing

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Detroit, MI - Detroit Trading Automotive Research & Insights

Jack Lintol

President & COO at Detroit Trading


Our data scientists continue to monitor online car shopping trends and patterns. Through the Detroit Trading ClearPath™ Enterprise Platform, we’ve analyzed hundreds of millions of data points nationwide to help you better understand the state of car buying in the COVID-19 economy. This article will show you how the following three key metrics we reported two weeks ago continue to evolve: 

  1. Consumer Hand-Raiser Activity - Increasing
  2. Dealer Marketing Efforts - Stable, Improving Daily
  3. Consumer Purchase Rates - Close Rates are Increasing

As in our previous articles, we’ve graphed daily activity of these three metrics against seasonally adjusted, historic activity, which is shown as the “expected” baseline in the charts below. 

1. Consumer Hand-Raiser Activity - Increasing

During our last publication, we discussed a slight increase in consumer interest from previous trend lines.  Since then, we have seen this increase in activity continue, with a substantial spike in consumer hand-raiser activity occurring towards the end of April.  If this increase continues through May, consumer hand-raising will return to expected targets and may exceed expectations.  

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What this means to us: Consumer online shopping activity continues to increase, and is on track to return to or exceed expectations. 

2. Dealer Marketing Efforts - Stable, Improving Daily

We continue to see a slight decrease in the number of dealers working leads from our last publication, with a steep dip followed by a sharp peak towards the end of April.  We believe this is due to state restrictions being placed and then lifted.  We expect dealer marketing efforts to increase over the coming weeks as dealers become more proficient in responding to state specific social distancing regulations and selling cars online.  Our data continues to point to dramatic differences by OEM, with certain brands maintaining or increasing the number of dealers purchasing leads, using this as an opportunity to encourage their dealerships to respond to more consumer requests, maintain a steady pipeline of sales prospects and leverage that pipeline to gain customers and market share.  Qualitatively, we are regularly speaking with dealers and automotive brands and they continue to reinforce that the consumer interest generated online (internet leads) is the most valuable marketing lifeline that they are depending on during this crisis.

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What this means to us: Dealers are starting to re-open their doors and adjust to state-specific social distancing guidelines that require them to sell cars online, coordinate remote transactions and home delivery.  As dealers adjust, they are investing in their lead marketing activity to ensure they have a steady stream of potential consumers to contact and serve.

3. Consumer Purchase Rates - Close Rates are Increasing

The “Expected Rate” (bold, black, solid line) represents expected consumer purchase activity (expected close rate) by day versus actual “New Trend Line” (black dashed line), which is actual consumer purchase activity (actual close rate) by day.  The “New Trend Line” (black dashed line) has increased from the “Previous Trend Line” (red dashed line) reported two weeks ago.  This corresponds with dealers transitioning to remote sales, online transactions and home delivery fulfillment.  

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What this means to us: Fewer purchases are being delayed as dealers develop sales processes to adapt to state-specific restrictions and requirements.  Consumers are also taking advantage of the deals OEMs are presenting and potentially using stimulus money.  It is encouraging to see the “New Trend Line” continue to move up from two weeks ago.    

Analysis: Consumers Are Starting to Buy, And Dealers Are Serving 

We’re seeing people shopping for cars online at near normal levels, and this shopping activity is starting to result in vehicle sales. Automotive brands continue to utilize leads as an important part of their marketing strategy to connect with interested consumers and increase sales activity, with most brands either maintaining current volumes or increasing their orders for May over April.  It stands that those who are using this environment to invest in building a book of business are not only out performing their competition, but they are also preparing themselves to make up for current losses as the economy re-opens.  In doing that they’ll see sales, market share and consumer appreciation increase.

About the Author - Jack Lintol is the President of Detroit Trading, a Detroit-based firm that is amongst the world’s foremost data and technology providers of “in-market” automotive shoppers and shopper intelligence. The firm provides data and leverages data science for original equipment manufacturers and dealers that is responsible for more than 30,000 and $1 billion in monthly car sales. Contact Jack at jack@detroittrading.com.

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