How Canadians Buy Cars... It's Different Today

What you need to know about the car buyers' path to purchase

If you’re in the Canadian car business, you don’t need telling twice: it’s been a tough time. In September 2018, vehicle sales were 7.4% down YoY, with decreasing sales and increasing competition from players within the country and outside.

In this tricky market, it’s more important than ever that marketers are making the most of their ad spend, to make sure they’re influencing the right consumers at the right moment.

What the journey looks like

Buying a car is one of the largest purchases consumers make. It’s not a decision taken lightly and some buyers spend upwards of a year in their purchase journey (though, on average, Canadian car buyers take eight to nine weeks). The majority of the purchase journey is spent thinking about a future new car purchase, followed by two to three weeks of research and one to two weeks of test drives and dealership visits.

For marketers, this makes the awareness stage tricky. Once prospective car buyers are in the thick of researching options and visiting dealerships there’s lots of data around what they’re up to. But predicting when someone is likely to start their journey is a more difficult task.

One helpful indicator is key life events. Insurance companies have long understood that events such as starting a new job, having a child, and moving to a new home can all be key predictors of buying a new car. Many of these can be identified using available data segments and targeted by campaigns looking to drive consumers from the awareness stage to consideration.

As consumers move from awareness to consideration, and build a mental shortlist of brands and models they are considering, perhaps counterintuitively, their focus tends to broaden rather than narrow. It’s common for car buyers to start out with an average of two to three cars in mind before purchase and an average of five cars at the time of purchase. One in four Canadian car buyers say they’ll consider new brands when presented with better options during research.

These two to four weeks before the consumer visits a manufacturer website or dealership are when auto buyers are most likely to convert on display advertising. To make the biggest impact, you need to think beyond ad placement and frequency here: content and design matters just as much, and the more personalized you can make the creative the better. We found that the personalization of creatives could lead to performance uplift as high as 13%.

Once the consideration stage is over, shortlisting begins - and then it’s down to details. Consumers will use a whole bunch of different research and recommendations tools from different sources, including sites for car news, reviews, manufacturers, dealers, friends and family, to put together their short list of top choices.

And they’ll also begin visiting dealerships to take test drives and see vehicles in person. On average, a Canadian car buyer will visit three dealers before making a purchase, and may not make a purchase at the first dealer they visit.

This means there’s a huge opportunity for conquesting among automotive advertisers. Once a prospective car buyer has visited their first dealership, advertisers should be aggressively reaching out to drive that buyer to one of their dealerships, particularly if they are in the buyer’s consideration set.

Dive into the detail

This is just a snapshot of the things to think about in the Canadian car buyer’s path to purchase. There are, of course, many other things that count: not just the classic demographic makers like age and gender, but also macro factors like the weather. For instance, did you know car buyers are most likely to visit car websites when the local temperature is between 14 and 16 degrees? Or that traffic on those sites drops an average of 19% on days when thunderstorms are forecast?

These are the kind of granular insights you need when putting together your strategy for reaching Canadian car buyers. You can get more insights like this in our new report The Canadian Marketer’s Guide to the Automotive Buying Journey.  

 


Alfie Atkinson
Managing Director
MiQ

Alfie Atkinson launched the MiQ Canada team in early 2014, and has been the driving force behind the phenomenal growth of the Canadian business ever since. With digital media experience spanning over a decade, across the UK and North American markets, Alfie has built a career around data analysis and innovative tech solutions, to help clients go beyond one-size-fits-all marketing tactics to create really strategic campaigns.

Tell Us What You Think
  1. If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by CMA before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry.
    Thanks for waiting. View CMA's Blogging Policy.