Autos

Millennials skip showroom, use social media for car-buying

June 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM ET

A businessman playing with a toy car at his desk.
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When it comes to car shopping, millennials first hit the Web, not the showroom.

When 20- and 30-somethings go car shopping, they’re likely to ask their friends for help – their Facebook friends, that is. The youngest generation of car buyers is far more likely to turn to social media for advice than head for the showroom, according to an eBay Motors study.

More than nine of 10 so-called millennials -- "Generation Y" babies born between 1980 and 2000 -- turn to the Internet when shopping for a new car or truck, according to the eBay research.

They aren’t alone. A separate study found that the majority of buyers now go online to begin the car buying process – and more than half will be strongly influenced by what their friends have to say on Facebook.

“It has become increasingly important for dealers to ensure that they are reaching consumers when, where and how they want to shop for vehicles – which today, more than ever, means online and on mobile,” said Kristine Chin, head of vehicles at eBay Motors.

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Key findings of the eBay study include:

94 percent of millennial car buyers gather information online;

More than a third use mobile devices to do that research, compared to 19 percent of older car shoppers;

Only 13 percent of millennials view visiting a dealership as their preferred method of shopping, while 25 percent of older buyers prefer to go to a showroom.

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The study, based on responses from over 1,000 U.S. adults, also found that millennials are more comfortable using portable devices than older drivers when researching a possible purchase. One of five of these young motorists reported that they would be open to going through the entire purchase on a mobile device, according to eBay Motors.

Millennials aren’t alone. The survey found that two of three older motorists say technology is changing how they shop for a car.

That’s supported by the Automotive Social Media and Reputation Trend Study which finds 81 percent of buyers read reviews to narrow down the right car or truck, a figure that has grown substantially in the past six months. The study, by research firm Digital Air Strike, named Cars.com, Edmunds.com and Yahoo! among the most influential sources of reviews. It also noted social media outlets Facebook, Yelp and Google Plus.

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Twenty-four percent of those surveyed indicated online reviews are the single “most helpful” factor in the final choice of a vehicle. According to the study by Digital Air Strike, “There is a 59 percent probability that a consumer will trust a review from a Facebook friend more than reviews on other sites.”

Meanwhile, the survey of 2,000 shoppers found that 43 percent said they would use Facebook to search for a local dealership.

While there has been a lot of debate about the effectiveness of Facebook advertising, the Automotive Social Media study found that clicks on dealership ads jumped to 39 percent from 16 percent between October 2012 and April of this year.


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