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How dealers can increase profits from their used car operations

The online used car consumer journey

Google has identified that the timespan of when a consumer is actively in the market for a used car lasts just 1.7 months, according to Hugh Dickerson, Google senior industry head of automotive


Some 58% make their decision within one month. That means the dealer’s role starts with a virtual sale at the beginning of the consumer’s online research, said Hugh Dickerson, Google senior industry head of automotive. By the middle of their search, 61% have already been in touch with a dealership.

The results of Google’s study show the importance for dealers to have websites optimised for smartphones and tablet computers as well as desktop and laptop PCs. Because 47% of searches for used cars happen outside the typical 9am-6pm operating hours of a dealership, they also need to consider their out-of-hours digital operations.

“If you’ve not got a mobile site it’s akin to being closed two or three days per week,” he said. It should also have a click-to-call button to make it easier for the consumer to phone for more details.

Dealers should also consider changing their search mechanisms, because many consumers don’t have a make and model in mind. On the plus side, he said, it means dealers have a good opportunity to capture a consumer’s business. Google data showed only 17% of potential customers know exactly the car they want, and only 43% buy from the brand they initially wanted.

Video can be a particularly good tool for presenting cars, he said, citing US company Carvana ( as a good example of where used car retailing could be headed.

“54% of used car customers visit only one dealership to buy. Therefore, the customer on your forecourt is gold dust. Roll out the carpet and treat them well.”

Next page: Manufacturer case study: Mazda

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