The Internet has certainly changed how we look at the world, be it from gathering information about a topic or how we now go about shopping for products. New research data from a study carried out by Google and TNS shows that the convenience and portability of mobile has also transformed the way Malaysians buy cars, and snippets of these were presented today at Google’s Auto Day briefing at its Kuala Lumpur office.

The presentation was aimed specifically at automotive industry companies to show them how the web is now at the heart of the car buying process, and how they can tap into the new trend in order to be at the forefront of people’s minds, but there were interesting statistics and insights to be gleaned from the research data.

In the 1980s, selling cars was limited to reaching consumers via ads on TV and magazines or through reviews, which then encouraged people to go to their local dealer. But today, there are many entry points into the game, and the permutations are quite staggering from an available content point of view.

Touch-points have increased exponentially, and so buyers are now able to carry out specific searches on a product, watch relevant videos, browse websites to research and even get feedback via social media means, many times before even stepping into a showroom.

With 75% of Malaysians (that’s 24 million out of 32 million) online owning an average of 3.1 devices per person (compared to the Asia-Pacific average of 2.8 devices per person) and spending 6.3 hours a day being connected to the Web, there’s no shortage of contact, particularly from a mobile perspective.

Malaysians, as it turns out, are very savvy shoppers. The technology company said that its study revealed that 86% of car buyers research online before making a purchase, and 74% are influenced by the ads they see. It added that three out of five Malaysian car shoppers have a brand in mind when they search online.

As far as being foremost in the mind goes, is right up there, as you’d note from one of the slides in the Google presentation deck. The number one resource for anything car and motoring related in Malaysia has over two million unique visitors per month, and our sister site is the leading repository for new car information in the country, garnering over 300,000 unique visitors each month.

Thanks to the wealth of information available online, car shoppers this year are expected to visit just 2.5 dealerships on average before making up their minds. This is a drop from the 2013 average of shoppers who visited 3.5 dealerships before making a purchase. Also, the study showed that three out of four buyers have already made up their mind when they step into a dealership.

The data indicated that searches for car dealers increased by 23% last year over 2015, and that ‘car dealerships near me’ searches grew three times in 2016 vs 2015 on mobile devices, with dealership searches not surprisingly peaking during weekends.

It also revealed that online searches for car loans increased 21% in 2016 compared to the previous year, and people carry out this when they are ready to buy a car, mostly corresponding to when car price searches climb. Statistically, the end of Q1 (March, and into April), the start of Q3 (July) and the end of Q4 (December) are when online searching – both vehicular and loan – is highest.

The research also showed that Malaysian buyers want a good deal, with pricing being the most important aspect of any purchase, but though functional factors have more traction than emotional factors in the purchase journey, consumers had different considerations, depending on the segment they were shopping in.

Luxury-brand consumers place an emphasis on performance, technology and design, while mass market consumers focus on after-sales service, fuel economy and resale value. Interestingly, the study revealed that fuel efficiency was last on the list for the luxury segment customer in terms of the considerations specified, while design was last in importance for the mass-market buyer.