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Unpacking the Automotive Finance Customer Journey

Welcome to the first of three articles, exploring different aspects of the 2022 Automotive Finances Insights study. In this one, we introduce the customer journey, looking at how it can vary across different consumer segments.

More than 9 million Australian households currently own at least 1 vehicle, with over a third (3.2 million) having used finance to fund at least some of their purchases. While there is no doubt that this offers significant opportunities for OEMs, financiers, and other associated businesses, it is important to remember that these purchases can follow extremely different paths. It is therefore critical to understand the customer vehicle selection and finance journey, and the key needs of consumers as they move through its different stages.

The typical consumer spends around six weeks researching their vehicle (and finance) options. The vehicle selection process is typically fairly linear, with an initial short list of vehicles being slowly culled down through a process of information gathering, dealership visits and test drives. Similarly, the finance process involves an initial exploration and evaluation of options, with the final decision of provider typically made around 2 weeks before the eventual purchase.

Looking at this overall does however potentially hide some of the nuance, with different consumer segments emerging, based on their approach to researching and purchasing products. While the most common segment (accounting for around two in five of us) takes their time without overthinking the process, around one in six sit at each end of the spectrum. This includes the 15% of ‘Spontaneous’ purchasers, who are literally willing to make significant life choices on the spot, and 17% of ‘Patient’ consumers, who finalise their choices more than a month ahead of time.

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Regardless of the segment they’re in, digital channels continue to become increasingly influential, with almost 9 in 10 consumers (86%) sourcing information online. Importantly, OEMs are also playing a more significant role here, with 52% of consumers using car manufacturer websites and 47% using car dealer websites, up from the 2016 figures of 39% and 38% respectively. This is not however to the exclusion of other channels, with the typical consumer spending 3 hours researching finance online. This highlights the importance of lenders having a strong online presence and SEO strategy to ensure they can fully tap into the opportunities at this stage of the customer journey.

Despite investing all this time and energy researching finance options, most consumers only get one quote. While there is a cohort here who are working through salary packaging or novated lease companies and are therefore directed to a specific provider, many others are willing to accept a first quote that meets their budget, or is provided by a lender they trust.

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Our younger Gen Y cohort stand out on their journey, with a higher level of activity than other age groups when researching finance, reflecting their status as first-time buyers in the category, and underlining the opportunity for marketers to intercept them as they learn to navigate the finance landscape. These younger purchasers (along with their Gen Z counterparts) also stand as the most likely to shop around and source multiple quotes. While this will partly be due to their lack of experience, they are also less likely to have developed the trusted relationships with financiers that can streamline the process further down the track.

After evaluating the consumer journey, it is clear there is an opportunity for lenders to capture different segments of the market. Lenders who have a presence in market and have built strong relationships with customers can leverage these to intercept them as they begin shopping, offering an efficient financing process (that also meets their budget) to retain their loyalty. Looking to the longer term, younger (more impressionable) consumers are actively seeking information and comparing prices. They can be won over by providers who help them work their way through the complexities of the process, offering an efficient financing process and competitive quotes. Importantly, once this initial relationship is built (and these consumers move up income brackets), these lenders will reap the benefits.

The 2022 AFI report is now available for purchase here. If you've got questions, or would like more information, you can click here to get in touch with our team of auto experts.

Also feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Topics: Market Research Financial Services Automotive Research Thought Leadership Research automotive trends automotive news