Go RVing previewed the first-time buyer section of its new path-to-purchase consumer study this week at the RVDA Convention/Expo in Las Vegas. The study will be released to RVIA and RVDA members and on the RV industry portal in early January 2023.
The organization studied two consumer groups: first-time buyers and returning RV customers. Those segments were broken down further into three categories: RV owners, RV intenders and RV abandons. Go RVing conducted the interviews in two phases during 2021 and 2022. To qualify for the study, respondents had to purchase or begin purchasing their first new RV from a dealership within the last two years.
The first-time consumer path to purchase in the study contains five steps: spark, research, consider, dealer and buy.
In this initial purchasing step, the study showed most eventual RV consumers had a childhood history of camping as well as being outside, or a good experience in the outdoors in the last five years. Many minority groups lack that childhood experience, the study showed.
“If you take nothing else away today, the biggest thing is, those early childhood experiences are absolutely critical to RV ownership in the future as adults,” Go RVing Senior Communications and Marketing Leader Sarah Neely said.
According to Go RVing, it takes most consumers one to six months to research an RV purchase. Consumers conduct RV buying research by talking to friends and experiential learning, as well as digital and print resources.
Experiential learning includes activities like those sponsored by Go RVing or festivals.
“We encourage dealers to do festivals and events in their local area so they can talk about why it is so important to expose people to RVs,” said Dana DelVecchio, Go RVing’s programs and experiential events senior manager.
The organization found social channels are also an important information source. Go RVing has 30,000 followers on its TikTok channel. It might be tempting to dismiss TikTok as a fad, Go RVing’s Strategic Content Manager Jenna Tomovich said, but dealers who do miss a major opportunity to provide information to new RVers who use the platform for research.
Forty percent of Gen-Zers use TikTok as a research tool and prefer it over Google, Tomovich said.
The consumer research and consideration phases often overlap, Go RVing Director of Strategic Marketing Courtney Bias said. The study found that first-time RVers who forgo comprehensive research often abandon their quest to own an RV. Consumers also need to understand alternative uses for their RVs to move down the path to purchase.
Once first-time RVers collect enough information, they make the decision to buy quickly, Go RVing found.
According to the study, consumers want a hands-on experience at this point in the path. They are reluctant to come into a dealership at first, the research found, but when they do, they move quickly into the purchasing phase.
“There is a really great opportunity for dealers, when customers come in, to show yourselves to be that trusted advisor, that you know this product … and you are able to really sit down and listen to these consumers to get them in the RV they’re looking for,” Bias said.
Positive reviews on chat boards and dealer websites drive potential RVers into dealerships, she said.
Go RVing collected third-party data that shows Go RVing campaigns are also driving traffic into dealerships. Consumers who had negative experiences at dealerships not only abandoned their quest to buy an RV, but about 8% would abandon the RV industry as well, Bias said.
Go RVing discovered that a salesperson who had the same experiences as the consumer was important to advancing the purchasing process.
Only 22% of owners arrived at the buy point with a finance plan in place, the study found. The study also determined that product walkthroughs were valued highly by consumers.
“It was important for dealers to have the discussions about warranties, negotiating payments and service contract options, but not to apply pressure … to keep that conversation easy for people who already had a purchase plan in the process after a sale,” Neely said. “It made offering the walkthrough absolutely critical for first-time buyers, and it was better if it was really concise but thorough and allowed the customer to actually interact with the units. It left (consumers) feeling more comfortable with the purchase later on.”