The Car Buyer’s Journey: How to Optimize Each Step

Mar 24, 2022

Over the last couple of years, the car buyer’s journey has drastically changed. With a myriad of automotive research websites and tools now available, buyers are no longer confined to just a few sources when it comes time to buy their next car. With increased options and opportunities for customers, you must find a way to separate yourself from the rest. 

According to Deloitte’s Global Automotive Consumer Study, 78 percent of current vehicle purchasers consider the customer experience “somewhat important” or “very important.” Dealerships that don’t mesh their sales processes risk losing automobile consumers to competitors that do. To adequately meet customers’ needs, it is imperative that you correctly understand the car buyer’s journey. 

Before you can begin increasing sales, you must ask yourself, how do people shop for a car in 2022? 

Step 1: Car discovery 

The first part of the car buyer’s journey is to realize that they need or want a new vehicle. 

The car discovery phase usually consists of car buyers in the market for a new car and are starting their research. 

During this phase, car buyers look for general information about vehicles and what is available. They may also be considering specific makes and models that they are interested in. 

To reach these car buyers, you need to ensure your dealership’s website is up-to-date with the latest models and that you have an active social media presence. It would help if you also considered advertising such as search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. 

It’s important to note that car discovery doesn’t just refer to people buying their first car – it includes those who are replacing a vehicle they currently own and those who are upgrading to a newer model. 

There are many different ways to reach a customer at this stage. Some of those employ a mix of digital and traditional marketing methods. 

In terms of digital marketing, using a company such as Kelley Blue Book can significantly help your dealership become top of mind in this stage of the car buyer’s journey. Kelley Blue Book offers advanced ads designed to reach customers who match the perfect demographic for your ideal clients. Kelley Blue Book provides multiple advertising types: advanced ads, alpha elite ads, eLot ads, dealer showcases, and spotlight ads. 

For customers looking to replace their car, Kelley Blue Books Trade-In Advisor can be a valuable resource to show car buyers the potential value of their vehicle. This allows them to make a more informed decision when car shopping. This also will enable dealers to gain more inventory as people trade in their cars for a new one. 

Step 2: Car research 

After the buyer has realized they need or want a new car, the next step is to research different makes and models. This can be done in various ways, but your dealership must be easily accessible online and offline. 

Car buyers are likely to visit your website, read online reviews, and check out prices at other dealerships. They may also take a test drive or look at financing options. 

To make sure you’re reaching as many car buyers as possible during this phase, you must have a robust digital marketing presence. This includes having a well-designed website that is easy to navigate, SEO-optimized content, and social media profiles that are regularly updated. You should also be actively engaged in online review sites such as Yelp and Google My Business. 

Having the proper inventory in stock is also a great way to win a sale. When clients are in the research phase, they are likely looking at a specific make and model. If you don’t have that car in stock, they will be more likely to buy from a dealership that does. 

Kelley Blue Book can not only help you acquire more inventory, but it can also help incentivize potential car buyers to purchase from your dealership through its Instant Cash Offer. This tool is what your dealership needs to draw in more inventory and close more sales. 

Instant Cash Offer can easily be added to your website and is a great way to stand out when potential clients are conducting research on your website. 

Step 3: Point of purchase 

The next step in the car buyer’s journey is to decide on the vehicle they want to purchase. This is typically done when the buyer is at the dealership. 

At this stage of the car buyer’s journey, customers are looking to buy and narrow their choices to a few specific vehicles. They may also be considering financing or leasing a car. 

Your dealership must have an efficient sales process in place to make the sale. You should also ensure a wide selection of cars available for test drives. This means it is essential to focus on acquiring inventory for your customers.  

It’s also essential to have knowledgeable staff who can answer any questions potential car buyers may have. 

Various management tools and software can help you track and manage clients that come to your dealership. With higher turnover rates in car sales, dealerships can gain more data on which cars are selling to their demographic, and this gives a clear idea of which makes and models to acquire when acquiring more inventory. 

Step 4: Vehicle purchase 

The fourth step in the car buyer’s journey is to purchase! While step three involves narrowing down and test driving the vehicle, that is far from a purchase. In this stage, it is your job to ensure the customer is satisfied and that their questions have been answered. 

This is also the most challenging step in the car buyer’s journey for a dealership! Purchasing a vehicle is a big decision for a customer, and there are multiple criteria that your dealership must meet to close the sale. Some of those include price, financing, and trade-in value. 

The car buyer’s journey is not complete until they have successfully purchased a car! Kelley Blue book will help ensure that your dealership is successful in every stage of the car buyer’s journey. 

Step 5: Customer follow-up 

Once the customer purchases their vehicle of choice, the car buyer’s journey is not yet over. Customer service is more important than ever before. You must have a system in place for customer follow-up. This can include automated emails, text messages, or phone calls. 

Kelley Blue Book offers a variety of tools to help you improve your customer service. These tools include car buying guides, car care resources, and even tools to help consumers schedule service. 

Down the road, when customers would like to exchange for a new car, upgrade, or sell their vehicle back to the dealership, they will remember how you treated them during their initial car buying process. This can help dealers increase sales with new purchases and regain inventory from trade backs or buybacks. 


Understanding the car buyers’ journey is one of the best ways for your dealership to increase its sales in 2022. 

The ways of traditional purchasing are becoming more obsolete, and customers are looking for simple and convenient ways to buy a car. 

Kelley Blue Book can help you reach these potential customers with a suite of products and services that cater to each step of the car buyer’s journey. Kelley Blue Book has you covered, from market research and lead generation to sales optimization and customer service follow-up.