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How Digitalization Offers New Ways to Buy Cars

Posted: 08/19/2021 | Author: Jim Lochner for Creatives On Call | Tags: Thought Leadership

How Digitalization Offers New Ways to Buy Cars

In 2020 nearly everything went online, including buying a car. With millions of people looking for a new set of wheels and dealerships temporarily shuttered, digital access to a rapidly shrinking inventory took on an even more important role. As a result, online sales in the new car market are expected to increase to 10% in 2021, up from 5% pre-pandemic. But many shoppers are still wary of visiting showrooms, so car companies and dealers have to step up their digital game. 

95% of car buyers use digital as a source of information. But 56% start their research at a third-party site even though dealer websites have the greatest impact on new car-buying decisions (along with input from family, friends, and coworkers). Moreover, more than half of all auto shoppers say dealer websites are merely meeting expectations. Interested in taking your auto digital footprint to the next level? Reach out here.

57% of shoppers are researching on their mobile device. Though only 9% purchased a car directly from their mobile device, 58% only use their smartphone for vehicle research. To succeed, manufacturers and dealers will have to meet car buyers on their territory—online.

What the Industry Can Do:

• Create a seamless omnichannel experience. An omnichannel approach will be crucial for future automotive sales, with features such as online chats with sales agents, coordinated social media campaigns, virtual test drives, and more. A seamless experience also needs to ensure customers’ preferences and history are available across digital channels and follow them into the dealership. 

• Use the online research phase to engage potential buyers. Use targeted, tailored messaging, and retain any data collected to help create a seamless, tailored experience at the dealership.

• Invest in video. From 360-degree views of the interior and exterior walkarounds to virtual test drives, virtual and augmented reality technology delivers the wow factor to consumers. 70% of car buyers who used YouTube were also influenced by what they watched, and more than 40% who watched a video visited a dealer as a result. 

• Leverage related online opportunities. Digital tools can streamline the buying processes, especially with used car valuation algorithms and remote document e-signing. Moving financing pre-approvals and finance protection product explanations online also increases transparency and accelerates the car-buying transaction. 

• Keep pricing consistent online and at the showroom. A difference of even $50 could make all the difference with a perception of dealer transparency and integrity. That difference could mean buyers may seek out your competitor.

But don’t forget the human element. No matter how great the digital adoption, in-person sales will never disappear entirely. Nearly 9 out of 10 shoppers prefer the immediate, tactile experience of physically interacting with a vehicle before buying it, while 70% prefer in-person interactions with dealership personnel. Nearly two-thirds also say they also want to conduct price negotiations in person to secure the best deal. 

* * *

Most buyers have yet to embrace a fully digital car-buying experience. But that disruption is gaining ground. More than one-third of car buyers are willing to complete their online purchase without a test drive. And 56% said that even simply watching a 360-degree video could convince them to buy a car. The winners in automotive sales will be the companies and dealerships that meet their customers in the digital space long before they ever set foot in the showroom. 

If they ever do.

Need help with your automotive digital strategy? Creatives On Call has experienced creatives standing by. Give us a call!


This is a time for marketers to step up to the challenge and get creative in meeting current demands and behavior changes. Creatives On Call supports your business through this. Contact us here.  We have Marketing professionals ready to start in areas including:

  • Strategy & Advisory
  • Design and Production
  • Content Creation & Management
  • Customer Engagement & Experience
  • Learning & Knowledge Management
  • Digital Technology & Transformation

Learn more here.

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