When I used to work for a car dealership, the biggest question that the managers had was (aside from why didn’t you make the sale), “How did the customer hear about us?” Smart businesses want to know where their customers are coming from. They need to know where their advertisements are reaching, who’s seeing them, and how many people are seeing them. Some businesses rely too much on TV ads or ads in the local paper. This is not the way to reach the majority of your consumers! Sure, TV ads help, but that’s not the only place you should advertise. What you should be asking is, “How is our online presence?”

Below you’ll find a graph that I made on how consumers now shop for a product. Gone are the days of just driving Little Jimmy down the street to the local store. Today, consumers are more content with searching online before they go waste their time driving to your store.



The Consumer Shopping Process

Here’s how it works. I’ll use myself as an example. I want to shop for a used car. I will more than likely start my search online instead of driving to the local dealership. Only 3% of consumers would drive straight to the dealership of their choice. The other 97% will begin their search online, like myself.

Only 10% of consumers (from the consumers that searched online instead of driving to the dealership) go directly to a company’s website, such as The rest of us will use a search engine (google, yahoo, bing, etc.) to find a dealership or a particular car. Below is a breakdown of consumer behavior while using search engines.



If I’m on a search engine, then I’m most likely unsure of where to buy a product. Therefore, I will start my search using keywords, such as, “used cars” or “dealerships near me”. Some consumers might use search engines to check what’s on sale or what’s new, so they might not know what to buy just yet. They are usually searching for options. The more options you have, the more consumers prefer you over your competitors!

Once I enter my keywords in my search engine, the search engine will then show me the most relevant websites to my search. These search engines have algorithms that more or less prioritize which websites will be most helpful to the user. Go to a search engine and and type in, “how google search works”. You should find answers on how search engines typically work.

Once consumers find the website that offers them what they’re looking for, they spend an average of 10 minutes on that website trying to quickly find what their hearts desire. If they can’t find it fast enough, or if they don’t like your pricing, or they don’t trust your brand, they will go back to the search engine and find something else. The average consumer searches 10 or more different websites to compare products. By the end of the day, I would have searched 10 or more different dealerships that offered me a vehicle that I want.

What Makes Consumers Buy From You?

Once they find the product that they are searching for, most consumers compare an average of 10 different companies. From there, at least 60% of consumers look for deals and sales. The other 40% decides to purchases from the best reviewed or from the best looking company (companies that are organized, clean, and generally eye appealing). Combine a well made product that is on sale, especially if the price and quality beats the competition, and they will most likely purchase from your business. I say most likely because you just never know if someone is more loyal to a different store.

However, having the best car on the lot with the best price doesn’t guarantee a sale. A business could lose up to 86% of their consumers by either bad reviews or by bad customer service! Would you want to buy something from someone if they were being rude to you? I wouldn’t.

On the other hand, a business can bring in at most 90% of consumers that are searching online to their business by having good reviews based on its customer service, quality of their product, sales, and benefits (such as rewards, better warranties, etc).


  • Don’t just focus your advertising on television, radio, or paper ads. Try to add some coupons online and on your social media page. People now spend the most time shopping online, so don’t miss out!
  • Have an online presence! The better looking website with better reviews will catch people’s eyes and gain their trust to want to buy from you!
  • Make your product easy to find! If your consumers can’t find what they’re looking for within 10 minutes, then they will most likely get bored or frustrated and leave your website and hope to find something else.
  • Have an occasional sale online and in store to attract new and old customers! If you never have a sale, then you are missing out on 60% of potential consumers. Would you want to always pay full price for something?
  • Be nice, and ask customers to review your business! You could lose more than 80% of your customers just by being mean or callous to them. The last thing you need is a bad review online. Refer back to note number 2.
  • You can’t beat customer loyalty! Once you have a loyal customer, you have a customer for life. They will most likely buy from you, even if the competitor has better deals. They will also most likely recommend your business to their family and friends. Treat them nice, and offer them better deals or rewards to keep them loyal.

Let’s Hear From You!

If you’re a curious person like myself, then you would most likely find yourself asking a lot of questions to your customers. Have you ever asked them (or gave them a questionnaire) how they heard about you, how they found you, or why they decided to buy from you? Did you learn a lot from them? Taking a minute or two to ask your customers these questions gives you an excellent idea of how well your business is performing, especially online.

I remember asking those questions to some of the customers who walked into the store when I worked at a car dealership, even if they didn’t buy a car. Almost every person heard about us using the internet such as google search, craigslist, and Some of them decided to buy from us because we had low prices, but on the other hand, a lot of them decided to go somewhere else because of poor customer service. Businesses that learn valuable lessons and listen to their consumers will improve, while businesses that don’t will most likely fail. Have you seen the rise and fall of businesses due to similar reasons?