Do your automotive dealership customers really want to shop online?

do your customers really want to shop online? iphone

Our friends at J.D. Power released a report that provides some detailed and intriguing insights on automotive consumer behaviour and the impact the pandemic had on the people you’re counting on to buy your cars. At a first glance, the report seems to say the exact opposite of what you’d expect: a decline in consumer appetite for an online vehicle purchase.

But hold on, haven’t I been saying for years that automotive digital retailing is the future? And didn’t consumers and dealers alike adopt digital shopping tools almost overnight in response to the pandemic? The J.D. Power findings seem to run contrary to everything we’ve heard from within and outside of our industry about this “new normal.”

Let’s look more closely, though, because the report goes in-depth on the specifics of your customers’ desires, and it’s something you should absolutely not overlook.

Do people want to buy online at all?

According to the report, anywhere from 37 to 51 per cent of car buyers expressed strong intention to complete individual steps of the vehicle purchase online. More recent research reported on by Forbes suggests that those numbers have risen to between 73 and 80 per cent.

what are your dealership customers doing online? forbes

Interest in online options varies from step to step, but what the numbers show is concrete: all customers want to shop your dealership online, they just can’t agree on how.

The good news is that they don’t have to! Let me explain.

How do we address all the different buying preferences?

Long before digital retailing became a necessity in the automotive industry due to COVID, it was clear that flexible automotive digital retailing was the only meaningful way forward. Rigid, predefined online purchase pathways promised a great experience, but delivered platforms that only appealed to a narrow selection of customers. We go into more detail about this problem in our article Is your digital retailing platform black and white?

Leverage omni-channel digital retailing

This is where a great omni-channel automotive digital retailing platform shines. Sure, only 33 per cent of those surveyed by J.D. Power said they would complete all aspects of purchasing a new vehicle online, but nearly half said they would be interested in placing a deposit from their computers. By offering no digital solution or an online-only purchase tool, dealers stand to lose the 46 per cent of customers who want what we all want: choice.

Buyer satisfaction hit an all-time high in 2020 when shoppers finally got the freedom to do more online and less in the showroom

Combine the strengths website and your showroom

Just like everyone wants something a little different in a new car, everyone who walks into your showroom or visits your dealership has a different and unique set of priorities when it comes to the purchase itself. Some people need to hear the sales pitch in person, but are more than happy to go home and place a deposit online. Other customers want to do their own research, but need to look you in the eye before opening their wallets.

Need some inspiration? Here’s our list of five companies who do a great job of meeting consumers needs online and offline.

Appeal to everyone

Flexible omni-channel is what makes that a possibility, and what appeals to the 77 per cent of consumers who, according to J.D. Power, aren’t quite ready to do everything online just yet. When you empower your consumers with the freedom and transparency to choose what parts of the sale to do when – and where – you create the purchase environment they’ve been asking for since before social distancing.


When the world gets back to normal – or at least, “new normal” – consumer expectations are likely to change again. And they’ll keep on changing and shifting, as they always have. But with flexible digital retailing, you don’t need to know exactly what your customers want; you can give them the best tools available, and let them show you.

Source: 2020 Canada COVID-19 Pulse Webinar_Wave 6 June 3-July 1, J.D. Power

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.

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