Today's car buying experience is now a digital one for practically everyone, with 95% of us using websites in the buying journey, and we are increasingly completing more of the process in a virtual space.
Providing the digital tools to enable consumers to undertake everything from finance quotes and applications to part-exchange evaluation is now a must have for dealer websites, whilst the ability to pay a deposit or even complete the entire transaction is fast becoming an expectation.
Most customers are likely to want to complete some aspects online, other elements by phone and in person. Others will be happy undertaking everything online.
But what's important here is that each customer will want to make their own individual journey. Digital tools need to accommodate that, whilst providing the opportunity to switch to a different communication channel at the drop of a hat. The more a dealer can meet these demands, and the smoother the digital process, the better the ultimate customer experience.
It sounds obvious, but any digital tools need to work perfectly and be easy to use on all devices. According to a Cox Automotive study, car buyers visit an average of 4.2 websites often using multiple devices.
The same study found physical visits to dealerships continuing to drop (customers purchasing from a dealership visited 2.7 dealers in 2017 but just 2.3 in 2019). So the online store and its digital tools are increasingly important.
For the 41% of car buyers who visit just one dealership as part of the vehicle purchase journey, the website and the actions which can be undertaken are even more critical when deciding where to buy.
Although 39% felt their most recent car-buying experience had improved over their last one, the study also found more than half (52%) felt it hadn't. So there's still work needed from dealers in meeting consumer expectations both on and off-line.
Dealer websites were identified by 34% to reach a final decision on brand, compared to 52% who cited third-party websites and 33% for manufacturer sites, reflecting their importance and influence but also revealing a gap which could be closed with the right approach.
Car-buyers want an all-in-one sales process for convenience and ease of use. In turn dealers need to successfully blend their physical and digital presence to deliver one seamless experience no matter how the individual customises their purchase journey.
With customers making key decisions in the digital space and not face-to-face with a sales executive, dealer websites providing the online solutions to get there will inevitably fare well.
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