Dealers finding positive impact from digital retailing tools, study shows
An overwhelming percentage of car dealers who use digital retailing tools are reporting encouraging results, according to the latest research by Cox Automotive.
The company’s 2023 Digitization of Car Buying Study found 90% of dealers said digital retailing has positively impacted at least one area of their business, with customer satisfaction/experience, customer relationships, ease of completing deals, time spent completing deals, employee workflows and staff efficiency all cited by more than 70 percent of dealers as areas that have benefited.
“Digital retailing has made significant progress in penetration among dealers, with nearly four of 10 dealers offering customers the ability to complete all of the steps of the deal online, up from three of 10 only a year ago,” Cox Automotive senior vice president of dealer solutions Tracy Noonan Fred said in a news release.
“Despite the recent economic ups and downs, dealers remain highly satisfied with these digital investments because of their positive impact on both customer and staff experience.”
Cox Automotive said the study, which used data from shoppers, buyers and franchise dealers, illustrates to widespread use of digital retailing and how it has improved the overall buying and selling experience.
Overall, 39% of the dealers surveyed said they offer customers the ability to complete every step of the deal online. The top benefit of digital retailing, according to both dealers and customers, is the time saved, cited by 60% of dealers and 93% of shoppers.
But the study showed 59% of dealers are also finding digital retailing improves the customer experience and 43% — up from 25% in the 2022 survey — said it creates a more personal connection with shoppers.
“Now that buyers have a growing willingness to share their data with dealers online, knowing that it’s driving a more personalized online experience, digital retailing is not just a tool for efficiency — it’s a mainstream best practice that consumers expect from their shopping experience,” SVP of consumer solutions Jessica Stafford said.
Cox said this year’s study shows digital retailing’s impact has increased from 2022 in the areas of customer relationships, deal-making, staff implications and F&I. The results showed 76% of dealers said digital retailing tools have improved customer relationships and made completing the deal easier, and 61% said the tools have improved the F&I process, which Cox said has historically been a major pain point for shoppers.
The customer survey found car shoppers are willing to provide access to information in order to create a better buying experience, with 74% saying they’re comfortable with sharing personal data such as income and credit score. In addition, 52% are OK with sharing their vehicle data such as usage and history, and 29% will share their online and social media data, including search history and social media activity.
Still, a huge number of dealers using digital retailing face challenges with repetitive processes, which can undermine customer trust and increase the time to complete a deal.
Almost all the dealers surveyed (97%) said customers who complete steps online end up repeating them in the store, with trade-in offers, deal breakouts, finalizing the purchase price, selecting add-ons and financing applications cited as the most frequent.
That’s because a mere 8% of dealers said they completely trust the information shoppers share with them online, and 70% said shoppers repeat steps in order to verify their data is accurate.
The study suggests a hybrid digital approach in the store can mitigate the issues shoppers find online.
Currently, just 23% of dealers say their digital tools offer the same experience and give customers the same information they can get at the dealership, which Cox said creates doubt that can “disrupt an otherwise satisfying purchase process.”
The study said that risk can be reduced by tools that offer accuracy and continuity of information both online and in-store. It also found 91% of shoppers want the option to interact digitally at the dealership, and 81% of dealers currently use or are interested in using digital tools to connect and continue their shoppers’ process at the dealership.
“This study sheds light on the positive impact digital retailing is having on dealers’ business,” Cox Automotive president of retail solutions Lori Wittman said.
“It’s no longer enough to put widgets on a website. Dealers who continue to invest in digital and AI-powered tools that provide a user-friendly, secure environment in which shoppers can share personal data and complete deals with tools that work both online and in-store will continue to reap financial benefits that come with higher shopper and staff satisfaction.”
To download the study, visit www.coxautoinc.com/digitalstudy.