Drivers looking for a car service or repair show little loyalty to the repairer they used before, research conducted by WhoCanFixMyCar.com reveals.
Fewer than three in 10 drivers plan to return.
The remaining 72% of car owners plan to shop around, and will use a variety of sources in the process. The research results:
How the results were calculated
WhoCanFixMyCar.com is a UK comparison site for drivers looking to find a reputable garage or mechanic near them.
This month, close to 9,000 drivers will use the site, with member garages, dealerships and mechanics applying for the £4 million of service and repair work currently live on the platform.
Alex Rose, WhoCanFixMyCar.com marketing director, said: "Clearly, this is something of a select audience who, by definition, are already shopping around! WhoCanFixMyCar.com were anxious to avoid any bias in their research - so the multiple choice questionnaire was delivered completely unbranded, to a random selection of internet users via a Google Consumer Survey - so we can be sure that there is no skew in the data."
Why are consumers so likely to shop around?
"The short answer: because they do it in other aspects of their life," said Rose.
"The simple truth is there has been an ever-increasing trend to move towards comparison, or ‘aggregation’ websites to help make smarter shopping decisions.
"The first movers, such as Just-Eat.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Confused.com and LastMinute.com, were all originally founded in the ‘90s or early ‘00s and, as such, can be considered as some of the first online ‘household names’.
"That said, it was really in the 2008-2009 recession that ‘smarter shopping’ really became not just an established, but an expected, behaviour. The rise of Orange Wednesdays, Groupon, MyVoucherCodes and the like, over that period, perfectly illustrate the change in mindset.
"In the past few years this sort of activity has given rise to a host of comparison sites, from global brands such as AirBnB and TripAdvisor, to brands such as Toothpick.com (dentists), Wahanda.com (beauty treatments) and Hassle.com (domestic cleaners) and many more, including WhoCanFixMyCar.com, whose fast-growing brand awareness is illustrated by Google searches for our brand."
Asking friends and family is just as popular as looking online
"The times are slowly changing.
"The appeal of comparison websites is that they allow users to compare their options based on a number of criteria - reputation, price, availability and more - and to make their decision on whatever matters most to them. It’s just the same as asking friends and family - you get a multi-dimensional answer. As such, the opinions of others - both on- and offline - will continue to play a role for years to come.
"That said, as consumers get ever-more accustomed to turning to their phone or tablet for information - and as the information available online becomes ever richer and more current - so the popularity of online sources will continue to grow.
"After all, if a driver can see 100 recent reviews of his local garage, from his own neighbours, featuring average repair prices that month, with just a glance at his phone, isn’t that more useful than consulting friends and family?
Our own data shows just how compelling a good number of recent reviews can be.
By tracking all the research process - from posting a request for quotes to leaving a review having had the car repaired - it's clear how thorough drivers are when it comes to committing to a garage (typically for the first time).
- From posting their job to accepting a quote, drivers spend 3.9 days, on average, in ‘evaluation mode’. In fact, 21% of them take more than eight days to make a decision
- They visit our website multiple times - 5.3 separate visits on average, in fact, before they pick a garage. 17% of them will visit us more than 10 times before their mind is made up
So, drivers are remarkably thorough before committing to spend their £350 (the average final invoice from work generated on WhoCanFixMyCar.com).
Lessons for dealers
1. Re-examine how you plan to keep your customers loyal. If 72% of your previous customers are planning to shop around, what can you say to them, at the right time, to make the decision easy for them (or at least ensure your place on their shortlist)?
2. Treat online enquiries like gold dust. Respond quickly, follow up with a phone call, and remind your customers to review you, and you’ll win multiple times more work. We see it time and again in our own data .
3. Embrace change. If drivers are increasingly going to turn to online sources when researching servicing and repairs, what does this mean for your business? How visible is your business online, and does your online reputation do your business justice? Are there historical marketing activities that no longer justify their place in your budget?
"While the headline figure might come as a shock, the truth is that shopping around - whether buying a last-minute gift on Amazon Prime or pricing up the family holiday - is something that most dealership staff will be doing on their own time.
"So it’s no surprise that their customer base will be doing the same. The winners in the market will be those who continue to treat their existing customers well, while recognising the rich opportunities available to them online."