Google Malaysia has released results of a study in which it tracked typical Malaysian consumers’ path to purchasing cars. The study, done with market research company Kantar TNS, reveals how people go about making that buying decision.

The study focused on four key stages on the journey to obtain a new set of wheels, and these were purchase consideration, initial research, further research and point of sale aspects. Respondents were from across the country and were all new car buyers.

Research is listed as the most important stage of the process, with 34% of consumers polled saying they approached their purchase from having no prior product knowledge (45% were somewhat informed, 21% very informed). With a car being a complicated purchase and representing a large investment, consumers rely heavily on research to help them make decisions.

According to the study, Malaysian buyers really take their time – 96% of those surveyed conducted their initial research online over an average duration of two months (or 60.7 days) before they decided on a car.

While brand loyalty is high among Malaysians, with eight out of 10 typically returning to the same brand, the average number of brands considered before the final purchase is 2.7. Google says that this leaves a lot of room for new brands and models to be considered during consideration period.

Interestingly, around 37% of respondents said they ended up buying a brand they did not initially intend, though 74% also said that they were open to considering new brands.

Online searches represent an influential source of information, with 93% saying what they search for greatly informs their purchasing decision. ‘User reviews’ tops the search list, followed by ‘best prices’, ‘professional reviews’, ‘price comparisons’, ‘quality performance’ and ‘offers.’

The results of the study added that online videos are very effective tools during the advanced research stage. As many as 87% of buyers followed up their initial research by watching review videos and testimonials and said those influenced their final car model choice.

More importantly, both search and video work hand-in-hand. One out of every four buyers went to dealerships after carrying out online searches and 37% (or roughly four out of 10) of consumers visited a dealership after watching an online video, and an outright one in four decided to purchase the car directly because of watching an online video about the brand.

It added that dealerships remain critical offline touchpoints, and online research is crucial for driving consumers there.

Interestingly, the study also said that three out of 10 Malaysians expect to drive a lot less over the next three years as ride-sharing becomes more common and Malaysian public transportation improves. In urban areas, it is expected that daily commuters are expected to utilise more public transportation options in line with the national land public transport master plan’s projection of a 40% target by 2030.