INDIANAPOLIS — New data from thousands of consumer profiles studied by PERQ for the firm’s most recent Car Buyer Insights Report questions key assumptions about dealership website visitor behavior, from where these consumers are in the buying cycle to how they prefer to be communicated with, and with what content.

Among the topline findings are that, despite a prevailing view that consumers are in the “buy phase” when they reach a dealership website, the majority are, in fact, nowhere near ready to transact: 76% are only at the beginning or middle of the process. And, when it comes to communications preferences, email trumps phone by a mile (67% versus 8%) while text is preferred by nearly a quarter of dealership visitors.

The study identified these five key myths and realities:

Myth No. 1: By the time consumers reach a dealership website, they are ready to make a purchase.

Reality: Seventy-six percent of dealership website users say they are not ready to buy (30% are at the beginning and 46% in the middle), while dealers are only optimizing websites for those who are ready-to-buy.

Myth No. 2: Consumers on dealership websites want to be “sold.”

Reality: Forty-six percent want to continue browsing inventory as an ideal next step, with 20% preferring to continue a broader search for information and only 19% ready for pre-approval.

Myth No. 3: A quick and easy purchase is most important to consumers.

Reality: Relevant incentive and discount information are most important for 31%, finance options for 27% versus 20% who cite quick and easy purchase.

“The idea that a consumer will only engage with the dealership website at the end of the buying process is simply not true,” said Muhammad Yasin, PERQ’s vice president of marketing. “Especially because many are still researching, which is something they want to do on their own. Our report found that consumers are often looking for research assistance and information to help them in their journey and that they have very specific communication requirements. Dealerships should be optimizing their websites with relevant tools and information across the car shopping journey.”

Myth No. 4: Get that phone number above all else!

Reality: Just 8% of consumer prefer it when dealers contact them via phone, while 67% prefer email.

Myth No. 5: Text is the third rail of communications.

Reality: Twenty-four percent of website users prefer it, a percentage that far outpaces phone calls as preferred method of communication.

“Clearly, these results indicate that dealerships should not be looking at phone calls as their communications priority: consumers are telling them that text or email is better, and less intrusive,” continued Yasin. “This is all about delivering the digital retailing experience that the modern car shopper wants and it is a huge, generally unmined opportunity for dealers. These consumers have found the dealership website through effective online marketing, and, if dealers optimize to give them the information and communications they need, when and how they want it, the likelihood of them buying from that dealership should dramatically increase.”

To read the full report, click here.