Purchasing a car has always been a taxing, laborious task that few consumers enjoyed. Luckily, the days of spending an entire day at the dealership to haggle over pricing are gone. Because of the pandemic, dealerships have moved to offer a large portion of the retail process online, which has seen consumer satisfaction rise to an all-time high.
According to a report from Cox Automotive, car buyers are happier than ever with being able to handle most of the car-buying process online. The report claims that buyers that claimed they were “highly satisfied” reached 72%, up 12% from 60% in 2019. In 2016, the average car buyer visited 2.7 dealerships. Now, buyers are only visiting two dealerships on average. Having to visit less dealerships is a great thing, but consumers are spending less time at dealerships, too.
“According to our data, car buyers have never been happier,” notes Cox Automotive Vice President of Research & Market Intelligence Isabelle Helms. “Consumers have long asked for a process that is more efficient and requires less time at the dealership. With more steps moving online, that’s exactly what they are getting. And it is not just consumers who are benefitting. Dealers, too, are seeing the advantages of a more efficient, streamlined purchasing process.”
The COVID-19 pandemic jumpstarted the move to digital services to purchase a vehicle. Cox Automotive’s report claims that 69% of franchised dealerships have added at least one digital step because of the pandemic. The same dealers stated that 74% of their customers have used digital retailing tools since the beginning of the pandemic. Finding information on incentives, calculating monthly payments, applying for credit, and finalizing the purchase price were some of the most popular things for consumers to do online.
This isn’t a short-term approach to selling vehicles during the pandemic, either. In a survey the outlet sent out, 75% of dealers stated that they would have to adopt digital retailing tools and move more of the buying process online in order to survive in the future.
Shopping online is a massive benefit for consumers, because it saves time and allows them to get a customized experience. It also allows consumers to do the majority of the process from the comfort of their home, away from the pressure of a salesman. While digital retail services for car shoppers continue to grow, Cox Automotive believes that dealerships will still play a large role, as shoppers prefer to test drive and set the vehicle up at a traditional dealer.
For dealers and manufacturers, this shift in consumer preference creates new opportunities. For decades, dealers and manufacturers have sold vehicles in the same way. They even took Tesla to court over the electric automaker’s decision to sell vehicles directly to consumers, taking the fight to automakers that did things differently. While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the auto industry and dealers around the country, it’s also given them the opportunity to offer shoppers with a better service.
To gather its data, Cox Automotive interviewed 1,859 purchase intenders and 462 franchised automotive dealers offering digital tools for consumers at the beginning of last August.