Reaching the Female Auto Shopper

As women emerge as a powerful car shopper segment, they are still weary of their dealership experience¹.  This is one of the key findings of research conducted by the Cars.com Insight team.  Often single and financially independent, they are open to a variety of car options because of their disposable income¹.  However, while comprising 39 percent of all cars sold in America today¹, women still feel under served in their shopping experience.  With Cars.com receiving around 5.7 million visits each month from women, there’s a large opportunity to speak to the female shopper audience from auto dealers and OEMs¹.

But, what can we learn about the female auto shopper and how can she be helped to make the right choice in a vehicle?  To start, the female shopper is highly educated.  Our study included 1,046 female respondents, and from this we found that 75 percent had a minimum of ‘some college’ or higher education with nearly 60 percent being employed full time¹.

This also resulted in finding that nearly half earn $50,000 or more and 59 percent have no children at home.  This means the female auto shopper has more education than previous generations and more disposable income.  There’s an opening to speak directly to this audience and, with the right message, we think she’ll be more receptive.  So, how do you reach her?

She values price and fuel efficiency over tech features² and is often the sole decision maker in auto shopping¹.  They also described their role in planning to trade-in or sell their vehicle as having some barriers to actually completing the shopping process¹. Those barriers included “male-centric” messaging with a focus on technology features with which she can’t identify, lack of ‘practicality’ messaging of a vehicle, and a lack of clarity over the ‘real price’ of a vehicle¹.  In taking this information, OEMs and dealers can create tailored messages that speak to the female shopper and help them feel more at ease when car shopping.

How do we do this?  When creating tailored messaging targeted at the female car shopper, there are some additional points to keep in mind as the same male oriented messaging does not always work.  Female car shoppers are more open to make and model but are often unsure about research findings regarding car options and cost¹, which shows a need for transparency in the buying process and vehicle offerings when targeting this audience.

They also said they feel “dismissed” and often deceived by dealers when car shopping¹.  They are reticent to reach out to dealers as well so are less likely to provide their information and dislike hard selling¹.  One can infer, here, that she has a perception of a high pressure environment at the dealership and wants to feel prepared before showing up on the lot.  When she comes on the lot, however, know that she is very digitally engaged doing research online due to her fears and concerns.

Armed with her digital research, female shoppers typically walk in planning to buy used inventory but often end up purchasing new and are looking for a fair deal¹.  According to Borrell Associates’ latest report, “2016 Auto Outlook, The Thinning of the Media Pack,” a six-year growth in new-vehicle sales is coming to a head having seen an average of 11 percent growth per year since 2010.  However, 2016 is looking to have only a 0.5 percent increase in new vehicles sold.  It’s forecasted to continue to drop through 2018 and slowly creep back up thereafter⁴.  This leaves the door open to influence their shopping decisions and move them towards a CPO vehicle or leased vehicle as well.  If they are looking for used, however, this can be an opportunity to turn to a demographic that isn’t always at the forefront if new vehicle sales continue to drop in the coming years.  However, regardless of stock type, there is an opportunity to influence the brand they choose, with 72 percent of women being undecided about the make and model¹.

Her top resources for researching about vehicles when shopping include dealer, manufacturer, and third party websites like Cars.com, but they also find friends and family, commercials, and magazine and print publications as significant information sources³.  For both auto dealers and OEMs, reaching them at these touch points with affordability and reliability messaging that emphasizes trust, peace of mind, and convenience can be a great way to cater to the female auto shopper and help lead them to a specific dealer’s lot.

On automotive websites, we found that women do basic safety and price research on vehicles looking for official car records and market pricing¹.  We found that 39 percent of female auto shoppers who are seriously looking for a new vehicle and have done their research still haven’t settled on a specific make¹.  This implies that brand engagement online is the key way to reach the female audience and influence perceptions of brands and dealerships.  She contacts dealers by email¹ which implies she doesn’t like the high pressure face-to-face interaction typically associated with visiting the dealer’s lot.  However, when they are ready to purchase, 61 percent of females seek to negotiate a fair price and prefers to trade-in her older vehicle over selling it herself¹.

The overall approach of the female shopper is practical and straightforward whereby she researches on real car price, car history, and fuel efficiency attributes when making considerations.  She wants to be well informed before going to a dealership seeking that fair price, because they are reticent about face-to-face interaction with someone on the dealer’s lot.

So, how can female shoppers be influenced?  Ultimately, creating targeted marketing to focus on attributes that are more valued to female shoppers like price, reliability, and efficiency will speak to her.  Knowing that she comes in thinking of a used vehicle over new and CPO inventory opens the door for moving females to CPO or leasing options that provide that ‘piece of mind’ that comes with searching for a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle.  Female shoppers can be encouraged to contact the dealer more if best practices are put in place that emphasize trust, peace of mind, and convenience for her.  Implementing a consultative role for sales on the list by listening to female shoppers when they show and avoiding hard selling can go a long way in influencing a purchase.  In the end, the female auto shopper can’t be dismissed as she has a large amount of decision and buying power.

1 Female Car Shopper Insights Report.  Cars.com, Tony D’Andrea, 2016
2 Cars.com American Made Survey, Cars.com 2016
3 Cars.com/Versta Persona Extension, Cars.com, 2016
4 2016 Auto Outlook; The Thinning of the Media Pack, Borrell Associates, 2016

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