Hit the road: 5 ways brands can better understand today’s Canadian car buyers

October 07, 2021 | By: Matt Miller, Sr. Sr. Copywriter

The road customers take to purchasing vehicles is always changing. Every generation has their own preferences, whether that’s where they research, where they purchase, or the size, fuel, and price of the car they choose. According to an April Amazon Ads/Kantar survey of 1,000 Canadian auto shoppers who purchased a vehicle in the last year, customers are spending an average of $25.2 thousand CAD on cars per purchase.1 From a generational breakdown, Gen X has the highest number of auto buyers at 35%, followed by Boomers at 31%, Millennials at 27%, and Gen Z at 7%.2 Of these shoppers, 55% are buying gasoline cars, 32% hybrid, and 10% electric.3

When it comes to the path these customers are taking to purchasing a car, shoppers are spending an average of 6.3 weeks researching and considering vehicles.4 This is an important time for brands to connect with customers on their shopping journey. Buying a car can be a big decision. And brands can better connect with these customers by giving them the information that they might find useful and helpful during each stage of the process.

With the insights from the Kantar study, we’ve put together 5 takeaways for how brands can better understand today’s Canadian car buyer:

1. Different rides for different generations

The one-car-fits-all model does not exist. As tastes, values, and technology change, customers typically have specific needs in what type of vehicle they’re purchasing. Generally, it’s possible to see themes emerge across specific generational audiences with respect to what these groups want in a new car.

Let’s start with Gen Z (18-24). According to the Kantar research, 38% of Gen Z shoppers identify as environmentalists, 28% consider themselves tech savvy, and 44% are driving enthusiasts.5 This generation is the most likely to buy sport performance vehicles and sedans and most self-identified as driving enthusiasts. Millennials (25-39) are most likely to be tech (44%) and environmentally (52%) savvy.6 This generation is also most likely to be purchasing a car for better fuel economy, although most car buyers are replacing an old vehicle. Millennials are more likely to purchase luxury vehicles. Both Gen X (40-54) and Millennials are most likely to purchase electric vehicles and hybrids. Gen X shoppers spend the most on their vehicle. According to the study, 23% of Gen X customers spent between $40 thousand and $49.9 thousand and 15% spent more than $50 thousand.7 Boomers (55+) preferred non-luxury cars, gasoline vehicles, and were most likely to buy SUVs. They are also the generation who is most often selling or trading in a vehicle to purchase a new one.

Understanding these unique generational preferences is important for auto brands to reach customers in ways that matter. Brands should consider the messaging and means through which they’re connecting with shoppers on their path to purchasing a vehicle

2. Big purchases for big moments

Whether it’s a new job, hobby, pet, or child, buying a car is most often linked to a big life event. The Kantar study found that 67% of vehicle buyers experienced a life-changing event before purchasing a car.8 Among all auto shoppers surveyed, 40% said they experienced a family change before buying.9 Within the group that had a family change, 48% said they purchased a car after getting a new pet.10 Other factors included children beginning to drive, starting to live on their own, having a baby, or recently getting married. Among all auto shoppers surveyed, 30% said they experienced a career change, 27% said they had a lifestyle or hobby change, and 16% said they had a home change.11 Knowing what factors often trigger shoppers to look for a new vehicle, brands might want to consider meeting customers where they might already be. According to the survey, increased interest in outdoor recreation and getting a new pet were the most common life changes associated with buying a new car. Brands might consider using Sponsored Display or video ads to reach shoppers looking at pet products or outdoor equipment who might also be interested in a new car.

3. Most shoppers are open to deciding on make and model during their journey

The road to buying a vehicle is a long and winding one. At the beginning of the average 6.3-week period of consideration, shoppers are flexible to the make or model of the vehicle.12 According to the Kantar research, 67% of buyers surveyed are open to different makes and models and are likely to consider online/dealership communications for different kinds of vehicles.13 Of these surveyed shoppers, 28% were open to any vehicle that fit their needs.14 So what is it that sways these customers to switch brands during their shopping journey? Eighty-two percent said relevant features of the vehicle were the key factors that made them switch brands, 68% said price or promotion, and 51% said a recommendation.15 For brands, this means it can be important to try and reach customers during this period of consideration, and highlight the features or promotions that may interest shoppers.

4. Meet them across devices

In recent years, many brands have focused on an omni-channel approach to improve the customer experience. This has become the focal point of customer-centric marketing, where brands can offer value at every interaction no matter where the shoppers might be on their journey. According to the Kantar research, auto shoppers reported consuming online media types more than offline.16 And these customers reported using laptops, desktops, and mobile phones leading up to the purchase.17 Frequent Amazon shoppers also reported consuming all media types and reported typically owning Amazon devices. They also have a higher ad recall on TV and streaming devices.18 Brands might consider reaching these customers with products like video ads, which appear across sites like IMDb, and Twitch, and on Fire TV, and across the web on devices like desktop, mobile, and tablet.

5. Shoppers care about environmental issues

Many customers today want to align themselves with brands that have purpose, and many believe that brands should do their part in helping the world. As such, environmental concerns are a major motivator for customers shopping for cars.19 In the Kantar study 27% of those surveyed described themselves as socially responsible (those interested in learning about alt-fuel benefits) and 29% as green pioneers (those passionate about the environment and want less dependence on fossil fuels).20 The socially responsible shoppers want to feel less dependent on fossil fuels, show others that they care about the environment, and reduce their carbon footprint.21 The green pioneers want the latest fuel technology, and are passionate about the environment and the future of the planet.22

Purchasing a car can be a major consideration for shoppers, and by understanding the features and values of these customers, brands can better serve them during this journey. The next step is the open road.

1 - 22 Kantar Amazon’s role in the path2purchase for beauty, May 2021