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Reaching the Decision Maker: How to Appeal to Female Car Shoppers
It’s important to treat female car shoppers as your market and not a market segment. They are as important to your success as the male demographic. They’re important individually as car buyers, and they are profoundly important in influencing their partner’s choice of car. According to Forbes, women influence 85% of car-buying decisions,1 and in 2012, they purchased nearly 40% of both used- and new cars.2
HeelsandWheels.com reports that women spend over $200 billion on buying and servicing cars, and they make up 65% of the service work done at dealerships. They purchase 45% of all light trucks and SUVs. And notably, 67% ask for an inspection when buying a used car versus 55% of men.
How Women Buy Cars
Some might say that women are better at buying cars. A 2011 study by LeaseTrader.com revealed that women are more informed and levelheaded than men, especially in the showroom – whereas men tend to get swept up in the intoxicating fragrance of leather and horsepower. Women do more research and are considerably more pragmatic in their car choices. What’s more, they aren’t afraid to ask a lot of questions, even if they think they might know the answer.
It’s also important to understand that a vehicle is not an emotional purchase for women. While it should come as no surprise, women are more concerned about safety and reliability, whereas men tend to look for a car's overall driving and engine performance, aesthetics and technology, and some minor safety features. Female car shoppers look for a practical vehicle that fits their needs and lifestyle; 44% say they are fulfilling a need as opposed to only 15% who say they are fulfilling a want.3 They gravitate toward smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and crossovers, and are typically very clear about the features the want in a car (e.g., DVD players, third-row seats, etc.). You also need to know that 63% of female car shoppers say that finding the best deal is very important; they’ll wait until they feel the price is right to make a purchase.3
Appealing to the Informed Female Shopper
Despite all of the evidence of how significantly the female car shopper factors into a dealer’s success, women still report that they have poor experiences when buying a car and feel misunderstood by car marketers. However, they have taken the situation into their own hands by taking to the Internet, reports Kelley Blue Book’s Market Intelligence. In fact, Kelley Blue Book says some 76% of women consider websites a valuable asset to the car shopping process. Today, women are walking into dealer showrooms armed with a mountain of information about models, pricing, financing and options; and many even know what the inventory position of a dealer is, says Kelley Blue Book.
The key to appealing to today’s female car shopper is understanding that she doesn’t need a different sales process. Instead, she needs more information ‒ it’s simply how she operates.
Remember that most of the women who come into your dealership are either the decision maker or the buyer. When Women-Drivers.com asked female car shoppers what they look for during the car-buying process, especially from their salesperson, 62% listed “trustworthy” as a top attribute, followed by “respectful” and “knowledgeable.” In addition, it’s crucial to reinforce value, safety, reliability and quality – instead of focusing on features. And according to the Cars.com study, more women than men purchase certified pre-owned vehicles, so use your discussion on quality, value and reliability to recommend certified vehicles if you participate in a certification program.
Transparency is especially important when it comes to pricing, details and what to expect during the buying process. Ensure everything is up to date and well-merchandised both in your dealership and online. Unlike men, who tend to bring gamesmanship into the car-buying equation, women are going to be straightforward and focused, and if they detect any hint of a smokescreen, they’ll move on quickly. And what do they do when they have a bad experience? They tell their friends and family – through face-to-face conversations and social media.
Use the Internet as Your First Point of Contact
Used-car buyers spend 75% of their shopping process online.4 The research they do online doesn’t just influence what make and model they buy; it also influences which dealership they choose to buy from. It’s a good idea to provide customer testimonials and links to rating sites on your website and in your traditional marketing to build trust and help women feel confident about doing business with you.
Use shopper-friendly language throughout your website and online listings. Avoid “dealer-speak.” Play up any amenities you offer such as a children’s play area, extended hours or a comfortable customer waiting room, for example.
Visit websites like AskPatty.com and WomenCertified.com to see what types of information female shoppers are looking for. Those two websites, plus others like Women-Drivers.com, offer lists and searchable databases of female-friendly auto dealerships. Check them out to see examples of how other dealerships are successfully marketing to women.
Glenn Pereira is the manager of industry education at Autotrader. He has more than 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, including retail, OEM and consulting. He can be reached at Glenn.Pereira@autotrader.com.
1Source: Forbes.com, “Transformers: Women and the Automotive Industry,” 5/18/10
2Source: Polk, 2013
3Source: Autotrader, “Female Car Shoppers: The Purse Powers the Pedal
4Source: Polk/Autotrader Automotive Buyer Influence Study, 2013