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Maritz Research released their New Vehicle Customer Study late last week. The press release made the point that the Salesperson at the dealership is still the most influential source of information for car buyers. The correct way to present the results is to say that more customers rated the salesperson "most influential" than any other source, but this type of inaccuracy has become commonplace over the past few years. The bigger flaw in the analysis was this quote from Maritz VP and Strategic Consultant, Chris Travell, "Every manufacturer needs to have a well-defined social media strategy. However, we still need to remember the importance of human interaction in buying a car."
The fact of the matter is that social media is human interaction, whether the consumer is engaging with the manufacturer or the dealership. Human touchpoints also include email response, chat, video chat, phone conversations, and interactions on social media sites. Social media isn't just about influencing word of mouth, it's about engaging with it.
There is no doubt that human contact remains essential to auto sales, and we wholeheartedly agree with the importance of salespeople. However, social media, automotive websites, advertisements, and electronically facilitated human interactions largely determine which store's salesperson gets to influence the customer at the store. "Most important" is largely irrelevant. Selling vehicles in volume requires the store to perform well across all touchpoints, human and technological.
The top ten sources in the U.S. were as follows:
1. Salesperson at the dealership (21.9 percent)
2. Family/ friend/ word of mouth (18.7 percent)
3. Consumer guides (18.4 percent)
4. Dealer’s/ manufacturer’s websites (8.6 percent)
5. Third-party websites (6.4 percent)
6. Automotive magazine reviews (6.1 percent)
7. TV advertisements (4.0 percent)
8. Dealer’s/ manufacturer’s brochures (3.2 percent)
9. Dealer/Manufacturer-sponsored event (2.4 percent)
10. Newspaper advertisements (1.7 percent)