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How Offline Auto Ads Lead To Online Searches, Research And Purchases

carsearchblogWhat influences consumers to make a purchase? Google wanted to know how digital drives auto research and purchase decisions, so it launched a study with Millward Brown Digital and called it "Vehicle Shopper Path to Purchase Study."

Aside from dealer and manufacturer Web sites, search remains the most common research resource during the purchase decision for a new or used car. Mobile use has increased 35% in 2013 -- compared with 26% in the prior year -- with a focus on research and comparison, according to the study.

Consumers looking for a car on average will rely on 24 pieces or places to research information such as deal sties, comparing models, review sites, watching videos, locating a deal, and search engines.

Tablet and mobile ads prompt shoppers to take action such as contact the brand, visit their Web site, or visit the dealer, but the most interesting part of the study points to ad types that prompt consumers to start researching a specific brand. Three of the five top ad formats for prompting research were digital, but direct mail came as the No. 1 ad type at 35%, followed by video ads at 34%; mobile ads, 34%; tablet ads, 34%; TV ads, 29%; and search ads, 28%.

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Shoppers rely on mobile for a variety of activities. Some 44% viewed images of automobiles on a mobile device; 39% called dealers, 39% read consumer reviews, 38% viewed current offers, and 38% located dealers.

When it comes to online resources, dealer and auto manufacturer sites, search engines, third-party and professional review sites such as Consumer Reports round out the top five destinations. Research using video continues to rise too. Some 84% of video researchers plan to watch auto videos the next time they shop for a car -- up from 78% last year.

Americans viewed more than 24.5 billion video ads in October, with AOL maintaining the No. 1 position with 4 billion ad impressions. Google Sites followed at No. 2, with 3.6 billion ads, and No. 3 was BrightRoll Platform with 2.6 billion

More than half of auto shoppers watch 30 minutes or more of video content. One in four watched more than one hour while researching, up from 57% last year. Video helps consumers discover new brands and make decisions, according to the study. Some 57% said watching videos online helped introduce them to new brands, followed by 47% who said they first heard about the vehicle by watching online video. Some 74% said online videos helped them learn more about specific vehicle types, whereas 65% said it gave them enough information to narrow down their choices.

How long does it take for consumers to make a purchase once they begin researching the product? Some 82% of purchasers are in the market for the item for three months or less. The average number of digital sources used during one month is 7.3; one to three months, 8.1; and three or more months, 8.1.

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