The RV Purchase Experience

How RV dealers can better engage the consumer

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at the vast number of options available.

Once you have decided on the type of recreational vehicle (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll need to consider the length and floor plan that best suits your needs.

Moving from the old to the new motorhome. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is something for everyone out there and dealers to sell you the RV that is the best fit for your needs.

AVALA, a Rollick Company, recently released the results of their recent survey of 3,000 consumers engaged in the recreational vehicle buying process from 2017-2018.

These results are included in their whitepaper, “The Recreation Shopping Experience: Why Customers Buy and How to Ensure They Buy From You.”

The old and the new at our RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Four major themes were explored in the survey: Brand consideration and switching, dealer follow-up, satisfaction drivers, and why people leave the market.

While the results of the survey are intended to assist dealers in their sales process, it also holds interest for the RV consumer.

According to the study, 81.2 percent of respondents seriously consider purchasing other brands, 43.1 percent of dealers suggested other brands, and 67.6 percent of respondents purchased the brand they originally inquired about. 

It was an easy decision not to change brands when we decided to upgrade to a new model. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Somewhere along the purchase process, consumers are being persuaded to switch brands. One reason for this is the dealers’ goal to sell the consumer the product that best fits their needs, not necessarily the brand they initially inquired about.

According to the data, the RV buyer took an average of 198 days to make a purchase. This is a long purchase cycle that begins with the initial contact at a dealership. There are many nurture opportunities within that time span.

However, only 57.5 percent of dealers continued to follow up after their initial contact with a potential buyer. And, on average dealers only followed up once with RV consumers following the initial contact.

Inside the new coach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The survey showed that consumers were mostly satisfied with their RV dealer experience in all areas except for price. Price is a challenging topic because it can change over time and due to customization can be difficult to determine a final cost to the consumer.

The survey results suggested that dealers can do a better job of communicating an accurate price early in the relationship so that consumers begin the purchase process with reasonable expectations. Providing an accurate price at the beginning of the process helps the consumer build trust in the dealer and have reasonable expectations. This trust creates brand and customer loyalty.

At Las Vegas RV Resort out new coach is clean again © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Areas where customers reported satisfaction included facility cleanliness, product knowledge, staff timeliness and communication, availability to answer questions, and product availability.

The survey found the number one reason consumers decide to no longer purchase a recreational vehicle or to purchase a different brand is because of price. The second most common reason is because they found another brand that better meets their needs.

The snowbird lifestyle at Gila Bend KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On a scale of 1 to 5,  5 being the highest, consumers reported that when purchasing a recreational vehicle, the experience ranked a 3.2—about the same as their experience shopping in similar industries (like automotive). This still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

An RV is no small purchase, and the best dealers and manufacturers are run by those who understand what it takes to create a lifelong customer. A connection like this is the result of a total dedication to transparency, integrity, and responsiveness.

You are only as good as you make your customers feel. If you make your customers feel special you will stand out above the crowd.

The snowbird lifestyle at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Without a customer, you don’t have a business—all you have is a hobby.

—Don Peppers