Buying a car online from start to finish with nary an interaction between customer and dealership representative has been dreamed about almost as long as the Jetson’s flying car. We’re about as close to the latter as we are to the former. Truth is, digital retailing is in its infancy in automotive. It will be here one day, but in the meantime, we must recognize what we have so far, and for what it is.
Digital retailing tools are an excellent way, not for dealers to sell cars online, but rather to increase commitment from the prospect. After speaking to many of the digital retailing software solutions available to dealers, it is abundantly clear that what these tools deliver are extremely qualified, ready-to-buy shoppers truly looking for a quicker, more seamless car buying experience. However, the showroom is still involved in this experience. Even beyond state legalities, very few are clicking the mouse and buying the car. Consumers are using these tools to save themselves time, dot I’s and cross t’s so no surprises pop up and fully make the decision on their own.
And then they walk in to the dealership to finalize their purchase. Carvana and others are doing their best to champion this form of hands-off car-buying (and I see their delivery trucks more and more around town). From a dealership perspective, though, know that digital retailing delivers low-funnel leads on steroids, but very few sight-unseen purchases. Nonetheless, that heightened commitment generated from the use of a digital retailing solution positively affects closing ratio – something all dealers strive to do.
Online expenditures are growing in dollar amount, and more shoppers are stating they no longer only complete their research online, but want to start the buying process online as well. (Read: start). They go further down the funnel (and the proverbial road to the sale) with as little contact with the dealership as possible. Yet, over 80% (per Cox Automotive) state that they still prefer to finalize the deal in the showroom. They do this to validate their research and their figures. They don’t need a sales presentation; they seek validation. Digital retailing today only gets them as far as they’re willing to go, but make no mistake, they prefer going farther down the path to purchase online than they did in the past.
To that end, not everyone is buying through these digital retailing tools, and, not all dealers see the value of buying these tools to implement into their websites. Yet, as an industry, unless we want the online car purchase taken away from us at the tier 3 level, we need to step up and embrace it now. Understand the intricacies of the digital buyer, not just the digital shopper. The showroom will get its foot traffic regardless, but having that channel available for potential clients ready to complete the majority of their purchase online is a necessity. Just don’t expect it to sell you vehicles all by itself. A modicum of work and attention is still required by your team.
Not many people are actually buying online, but you better start buying the benefit of what a quality digital retailing lead gets you.