Digital automotive retailing was long thought to be too big a hurdle for customers to clear. But with the pandemic-fueled shift to a more online culture, opinions have changed.
For decades, the car buying experience was one model. Sure, there were variations, but the central theme was as constant as the tides. A customer would go to a dealership and walk the floor, looking for a vehicle that met their needs. A sales associate would approach them and the dance would truly begin, of negotiation, a test drive, F&I, and so forth and so on.
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And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many stores were shuttered by law, while others did so out of a sudden lack of foot traffic. Many customers were reluctant to make a big purchase in an economic downturn, and others just didn’t want to expose themselves to the virus. Enterprising dealerships adjusted, leaning harder on their digital presence, even as the prevailing wisdom said they’d lose their shirts.
With a digital presence, customers could now do significantly more of the car buying process online…
But a funny thing happened: customers loved it. Perhaps the most important benefit comes down to time, which is a lesson so obvious it should have been apparent from the start. In the old days, buying a car could easily take half a day, and more if a customer did their due diligence by visiting multiple stores. With a digital presence, customers could now do significantly more of the car buying process online, shaving this time down to a lean 40-odd minutes, and all done in increments that most suited a specific customer’s schedule. Saving time also benefits the dealership, allowing sales associates to move more vehicles.
The challenge in moving to a digital-first model comes with the unique aspects of buying a car. Arranging financing, valuing a trade-in, and settling on a price, are all difficult to move online. In fact, many states require a physical signature for a car purchase. DealerOn has recognized these hurdles and is working to remove them. Our new product APEX, for example, will allow a customer to design a payment plan for a vehicle that works for them and come to a dealership with that already in hand.
As for the traditional hesitancy to move to an entirely digital model, those anxieties are rapidly vanishing as well. A recent survey found that 70% of customers were open to purchasing a car online.
These are excellent signs for dealerships who are open to adaptation. Move more inventory by providing customers have come to demand? Sounds like a win-win.