DETROIT – A new study warns auto dealerships have less than 30 minutes to develop an in-person relationship with potential buyers that will motivate them to return again.

The study – Path to Purchase: Automotive Footfall Report on the factors influencing consumer automotive purchases – also shows 80 percent of survey respondents start their vehicle buying search online from three to six months prior to showing up at a dealership.

So dealerships that know how to use Internet marketing and connect with potential buyers have a lot of time to influence their final buying decision. The research was done by Freckle IoT, a global data measurement firm.

Among the key findings:

  • Car buyers spend less than 30 minutes in the dealership
  • The average consumer visits more than 5 dealerships before buying
  • Around 70% of buyers travel fewer than 20 miles from home to visit a dealership
  • Online advertising still ranks as the most persuasive way to influence buyers, but there isn’t one specific feature catalyst for consumers to buy a specific car
  • Promos don’t draw consumers to buy
  • Friday is still the most popular day for consumers to visit the dealership with the primetime for sales on Friday being between 1-3 p.m.
  • The worst days to push ad spend is Sunday, followed closely by Saturday
  • The number one priority for buyers is price and reliability

The study includes data from more than 10,000 surveys sent to customers of Freckle’s consent management product, Killi, in a 30-day period with questions specific to automotive shopping preferences.

“We’re finding increasingly most of the preliminary vehicle research is done online,” said Neil Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Freckle IoT. “We’ve also discovered that the time put into research is a lot earlier than people believe. Vehicle leases coming due in six months helps drive the search.”

Sweeney said the research indicated that people go to dealerships to check out vehicles, but then go back on-line for price comparisons.

Increasingly dealers across the country are developing appetites for online marketing. But most dealers don’t understand how to drive traffic to their websites, or which customers come from online targeting.

“The majority of people want to purchase a car within 20 miles of home, so dealership advertising is focused on a small area,” Sweeney said. “Increasingly, a larger number are willing to travel and search in a much wider area.

“The notion that people are spending hours at a time at dealerships is not accurate,” he said. “When getting to a dealer, buyers are close to making a decision. What we’ve seen is every fourth visitor at a dealership is buying a car. The average time spent at a dealership is 30 minutes.”