The findings from Cox Automotive's "Future of Digital Retail Study" show consumers want to buy from a car dealership that allows them to do parts of the purchase process online. But no matter how prevalent digital retailing becomes, the survey results indicate consumers still value the dealership experience and the staff.

Car Buyers Desire More Automotive Digital Retailing

Cox Automotive's survey of 2,550 consumers who are or were in the market for a vehicle revealed there's an increasing demand for automotive digital retailing. In fact, 83 percent of respondents expressed a desire to complete one or more parts of the car buying process online, while 85 percent said they're more likely to buy from a dealer that allows them to perform at least one step of the process online.

online customer serviceHere are some of the steps car buyers want to take before visiting a dealership:

  • 71% want to be able to get details on the purchase price, warranties, back-end products, and their trade-ins that are accurate.
  • 51% desire the ability to structure the deal. Ideally, this would include agreeing on a price that doesn't change later, being able to choose add-ons, and negotiating the value of their trade-in.
  • 43% want information on financing and the ability to apply for pre-qualification ahead of time.

Cox highlighted two reasons why they believe car buyers are pushing for the ability to do parts of the process online:

  1. It Shortens the Process: Consumer satisfaction with a car purchase decreases when it takes too long. Cox research shows the average consumer spends three hours at a dealership, with half that time dedicated to finalizing the financial details. Making parts of the process available online will reduce the transaction time at the dealership.
  2. It Gives Consumers Flexibility: The survey revealed 65 percent of consumers don’t want to be ushered through an established sales process. When car buyers can head online for parts of the process, it allows them to do things at their own pace in a low-pressure environment.

The Dealership Experience Still Matters to Consumers

Even though car buyers want to begin the car buying journey on the web, the majority of them still want to end it at the dealership – 89 percent of those surveyed said they want to sign the paperwork and complete the transaction in person.

Additionally, 70 percent of respondents said they'd never buy a vehicle before actually seeing it in person, while 80 percent said they wouldn’t buy a car before test driving it first. These in-dealership parts of the process aren't going anywhere.

Survey respondents also showed they view dealership staff as important sources of information and advice, with 62 percent saying they'd call on them for help even with online tools available. They said they want staff to be experts that can: highlight differences and similarities with competing cars, explain differences in trim levels, and teach them how to use the vehicle's technology and features. So, make sure your store's staff is well trained and informed.

You don’t have to choose one or the other. The key is to enhance your customers' experiences by effectively incorporating your in-store expertise with automotive digital marketing tools and auto sales software.

Gaining an Advantage over the Competition

The "Future of Digital Retail Study" shows car buyers want the ability to do parts of the purchase process online, so dealers who allow that can get ahead. However, it's all for naught unless your store's processes seamlessly integrate between online and in-person, as many car buyers still place great value on the in-dealership experience.

If your dealership is looking for another way to get a leg up on the competition, Auto Credit Express is here to help you succeed. Our special finance leads, BDC, profit-making LotPro software, and other dealer products can help boost your bottom line and the speed of your subprime deals. Call us at 888-535-2277 or fill out our contact form online to learn more.