Do your customers really want to shop online?


Our friends at J.D. Power recently released a report that provides some detailed and intriguing insights on consumer behaviour, and the impact the pandemic has had on the people you’re counting on to buy 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 purchase.

But hold on, haven’t I been saying for years that 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 without 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.

According to the report, anywhere from 37 to 51 per cent of car buyers expressed strong intention to complete individual steps of the purchase online. It varies from step to step, of course, but what the numbers show is certain: customers want to shop your dealership online, they just can’t agree on how.

The good news is that they don’t have to. Long before digital retailing became a necessity in the automotive industry due to COVID, it was clear that flexible digital retailing was the only meaningful way forward. Rigid, predefined online purchase pathways offered the promise of a shiny digital future, but delivered platforms that only appealed to a select few consumers – and only ever would.

This is the importance of a true onmi-channel digital retailing solution. Sure, only 33 per cent of those surveyed by J.D. Power said they would “probably or definitely 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.

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.

Flexible omnichannel 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

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.

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How to find clarity in the chaos


Automotive can feel like an uncertain place to be right now. From supply shortages to awry consumer sentiments to undulating governmental restrictions, we’ve had a pretty rough go of it. And unlike previous revolutions in automotive retail, it’s hard to know exactly how to respond to new consumer expectations when they are no longer evolving in a straight line.

Up until now, we could confidently tell you that consumer buying habits were progressing steadily and uniformly towards an online purchase model. It was easy and predictable, because we’d already seen that identical transition in hundreds of other industries.

Now, though, the myriad pressures on your customers have created a chaotic disharmony of expectations and needs that can be hard to predict, and harder to answer. Some of your clients will have jumped straight to the digital end-game that presents the most remote, online-oriented purchase solution. Others will be looking for a safer way to conduct the traditional purchase, and still others want some combination of the first two options.

It’s challenging to connect with your customers when you don’t even know how they want to buy. It’s even more challenging when your customers are increasingly hidden behind the opaque veil of the internet, conducting much of their initial research and purchase process online.

It’s not all bad news and uncertainty, though. We’ve seen dealers across North America rise to this challenge by implementing infrastructure that singlehandedly addresses every disparate need of each new customer, giving shoppers exactly what they want while also granting dealers a new level of visibility into the purchase.

That’s because digital retailing has evolved, too. In its early days, digital retailing was synonymous with online shopping – and for some DR solutions, that’s still the case. But for the top digital retailing providers, the system is about so much more than simply buying online or creating digital leads.

As consumer expectations diverge into an impossible, confounding array of requests and needs, the best digital retailing providers offer systems that let each customer guide his or her own path forward. Want to start your purchase with an automated trade-in appraisal? Great! Just want to price out accessories before you come in-store for assistance? That works, too! Or maybe you’d like to complete the entire purchase online and take delivery at home? You guessed it: that’s also easy to manage.

There’s so much more besides. Digital retailing is the one solution that makes it easy for any customer to feel comfortable and confident shopping at your dealership, no matter how unique or convoluted their expectations are. And because it’s all automated, dealer employees can sit back and breathe easy while a stream of notifications keeps them apprised of the situation.

This all means that when customers arrive on your website and start buying remotely, not only do they have the freedom to buy how they want, but you have the visibility to understand exactly what’s happening on their end. Traditional online shopping was a murky process that usually resulted in a generic lead form, but digital retailing can tell you what vehicle, accessories, trade, and payment preferences they have (more, too).

I don’t need to tell you that it’s an uncertain time; everyone from your politicians to your yoghurt ads has said as much. But what I will tell you is that you’re stronger than the uncertainty, because you have the tools and the resourcefulness to turn that foggy mess into the clearest day you’ve ever had. That’s what good digital retailing can do.

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.

Interested? Get the latest insights to stay ahead of the competition:


How you can beat Uber (and win back Millennials)


Car ownership is a fickle thing. For the past few years, it looked like old fashioned ownership was on the decline among younger demographics who found more value in newer transportation models.

Between ridesharing services like Uber and car-sharing offerings like Zipcar, many consumers (Millennials and Gen Z in particular) saw little value in the traditional lease or purchase paradigms.

READ: Here’s How to Win Over Gen Z



Insurance costs alone could easily exceed the price of taking a Lyft everywhere, not to mention the hassle of maintenance (and winter tires, and major repairs, and gasoline, and…). So why are Millennials suddenly shifting back towards the car ownership models of yore? And how can you sell to them?

A recent article published in the Atlantic outlined the sudden and unexpected surge in car sales among younger generations. While car sales initially dropped off due to early quarantine measures, purchases among consumers aged 18 to 35 increased.

While convenience has long been on the top of everyone’s mind, COVID rearranged our collective priorities and placed safety above all else – specifically, safety from germs. We still don’t know the full story on the COVID-19 virus, but it seems pretty clear to most people that small, enclosed spaces like an Uber driver’s Civic represent a greater risk.

This is equally true for other common methods of transportation, like busses, trains, and taxis. All the shared-use alternatives to car ownership very suddenly gained a negative stigma among those worried about illness. The only risk-free mode of transit is the car that you, and only you, are allowed to use.

Okay, so how does this all circle back to digital retailing? After all, that’s typically what I discuss, and I know you’re expecting more than just an upbeat article on the resurgence of car sales among the young.

Well, when we dig into the nature of this resurgence, we see an interesting but not unexpected trend: car purchases may be increasing among the youngest two generations, but dealership traffic isn’t. Millennials and Gen Z want to buy a car the way they buy everything else: digitally.

According to Bloomberg, online-only car retailer Carvana has serious concerns that their inventory isn’t keeping up with demand. As car sales fell, Carvana’s revenue soared due to consumer need for easy, online purchase options.

And it’s not just Carvana. Headlines have pummeled us all summer with news of a “digital-first” industry shift; the success of dealerships across North America appears to hinge on seamless digital solutions.

That “seamless” part is small but critical. As eager as young consumers (whose market share is surging) are to buy online, they don’t want to feel like they’re navigating a second-class purchase process. These car buyers demand an online experience that equals or exceeds the dealership norms.

This is the power of digital retailing – the power I’ve been hinting at for what feels like years. As consumer expectations and purchase habits shift (quite rapidly these days), dealerships need to be equipped with the right tools to meet a new type of car buyer head-on.

More than that, dealers can succeed today and tomorrow by choosing a solution that offers the flexibility to continue adapting as the situation evolves. With the top digital retailing platforms, consumers choose their own paths to purchase, interweaving digital and physical shopping into their own unique patterns.

As showrooms reopen, that’s what car shopping is going to look like. Some people are eager to rush to the dealership and smell that unmistakable new car scent; other people will continue to avoid unnecessary public interactions for years to come. There’s a new spectrum of customer behaviour, and omnichannel digital retailing is your way to satisfy everyone on it, no matter how they want to buy.

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.

Interested? Get the latest insights to stay ahead of the competition:


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