Less than a quarter of motorists will first visit a dealership as part of their research for buying a new car as the internet continues to be the first port of call.
The research was conducted among 1,000 motorists in June by Redshift Research on behalf of Motoring.co.uk.
The research shows nearly a third of motorists will visit a dealer’s website, 18% will visit a car manufacturer’s site and over a third will research their next car online and get an online car valuation, before visiting a dealer.
The research also reveals that just a fifth of motorists will test-drive up to three models.
Chris Green, co-founder and sales director at Motoring.co.uk, said: “The internet provides a huge source of information and data on new cars at your fingertips and is a convenient way of selecting and narrowing down your next car choice.
“Gone are the days when car buyers visited numerous dealerships to test drive and learn about new models.
“Today’s savvy buyers are a long way down the car buying process by the time they reach the showroom, having already read new car reviews, obtained a car valuation and checked out the model spec and prices.”
Green said it had been no surprise there has been a steady decline in showroom footfall, but dealers can still capture buyers early on in the car buying process by scrutinising their response times and process from online enquiries.
He said: “They should actively engage with their consumers through social media channels like Twitter, even if it’s good or bad consumer feedback.
“Our research at motoring.co.uk shows that immediate response to online consumers is the only way to win in this challenging market. It is vital that dealers value these potential online customers as highly as ‘bricks and mortar’ customers, if they are going to drive footfall and sales.”