The study, which surveyed over 1,000 Australian car buyers, found that fewer than three-quarters (73 per cent) are using online media as part of their research. This rather low figure for a developed market, compared with 94 per cent in the UK according to Capgemini, is due to a preference for visiting car dealerships, said Nielsen.
Most of this research is still via laptops and desktop computers (64 per cent and 62 per cent respectively), however 29 per cent use mobile phones and tablet usage grew from 5 per cent in 2011 to 26 per cent in 2012.
"The opportunities held by online media to build awareness, engage potential vehicle purchasers, fulfil their information needs and move car buyers through their decision-making process are abundant,” said Melanie Ingrey, research director of Nielsen's media division, APMEA. “Online sources are unquestionably important in the car buying decision making process, and their influence is growing.”
Television continues to remain an important source for new car buyers (41 per cent), said the report, with smart TVs playing an important part in decision making.
“Internet connected TVs have the potential to be used as a shared online device for group viewing and browsing in the living room," said Ingrey.
In Australia, Smart TVs are reaching about 20 per cent of the population and are forecast to reach half by 2016, according to an earlier study by Telsyte.
"This new connected screen, once penetration increases, holds opportunities for marketers and content providers to support ‘family’ or group experiences to move car buyers through their decision-making process, particularly as many car-purchase decisions are made with the recommendation and input of friends and family," said Ingrey.
Among those visiting sites or apps, auto manufacturers’ websites are the most common online source of awareness and research— almost three quarters of new car buyers now make use of these sites (72 per cent). The use of social media as part of the automotive decision-making process is also significant, with 25 per cent of both new and used car buyers calling on this form of media to guide and inform their car buying decisions. Among new car buyers who have engaged with organisations on social platforms, 28 per cent have engaged with a car brand, up from 18 per cent in 2011.
The report also found that the use of classifieds sites by used car buyers is close to saturation (97 per cent), while manufacturers’ sites have far more use among new car buyers than used car buyers.
Among used car buyers, Car Sales is by far the most popular site used for buying a car, with three quarters using the site. It is also the second most commonly visited website among new car buyers (45 per cent). Cars Guide is also popular among both new and used car buyers (49 per cent used; 39 per cent new).
Despite the increase of online and mobile sources, traditional sources of research remain popular tools. Print media as an awareness and discovery mechanism is particularly popular among new car buyers, with two-thirds (65 per cent) using print resources at the awareness stage.
Ingrey concluded: “It is clear that consumers are looking to varied sources for information; whether it is websites, forums, Facebook pages or classified sites like CarSales—in addition to the traditional sources such as print media and visiting car dealerships. It’s clear that consumers are now seeking ever more information, and their media consumption is mirroring this trend.