The Modern Ways Auto Dealers Should Reimagine the Future of Digital

The findings of annual 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study made it abundantly clear that not only were current consumers feeling the effects of digitalization, but that dealerships and OEMs should reevaluate and reinvent how they conduct online business.


Some of the findings from the study of more than 10,000 potential auto buyers came as a surprise, while others confirmed what our industry had anticipated would be a continuing trend. However, the underlying mood of today’s consumers’ desires, requirements, and preferences all pointed to three particular things, whether it was a surprise or a given.


Together, let’s take a fresh look at your business and marketing tactics and think about the three ways profitable auto dealers are redefining their present and future digital strategies to remain profitable and differentiate themselves from the competition in the eyes of their ideal customers.


#1: Online research provides a chance to record and recapture information.


It certainly comes as no surprise that auto customers had to spend more time online researching when it came to buying their automobile as inventory constraints were a hot topic in our business last year.


Thankfully, the inventory issues are beginning to alleviate, however there are still fluctuations. Some auto businesses still have little to no inventory, while others suddenly had a full lot at the end of the previous year. However, many dealers continue to struggle to maintain a steady supply of vehicles with the options and equipment that customers genuinely desire.


Another crucial point to keep in mind is that there are still significantly fewer vehicles on the market than there were just a few years ago, especially when it comes to new cars. Cross-shopping activity has increased over the past year as a result, and brand loyalty is declining at higher rates.


This gives a chance to attract and distinguish oneself from new clients, particularly if other businesses aren’t making the necessary efforts and investments to keep clients.


In comparison to 2021, 64% of purchasers examined both new and used automobiles, a substantial increase.


With rising loan rates and decreasing manufacturer incentives, the goal of today’s car shopping is less to locate the ideal vehicle and more to find any car that checks some boxes and meets a consumer’s budget.


You should reset your CRM now.


Given that consumers, particularly those who purchased new vehicles, exhibited reduced loyalty to dealerships and brands in 2022, moving forward, this will be a crucial group of car buyers that dealers should concentrate on and win-back. Over the following few years, staying alongside and in ahead of them will become even more crucial at the dealership.


Traditional vs. necessary cadence: Take the time to carefully examine the cadence and automations you currently have set up in your CRM system. Timelines have changed as a result of shifting inventory, changing interest rates, and more transactions taking place online; therefore, the traditional methods of outlining events over periods of seven, ten, thirty, sixty, and ninety days may no longer be useful.


Depending on the circumstances of the buyer or prior customer, you’ll need to set alternative deadlines and funnels. You should also expedite and inform those who are actively engaging with you about their options.


Customers who are leasing: Don’t just rely on the OEMs’ automated lease alerts to your customers in your CRM. It’s critical to shine a brighter light on these customers. If your company doesn’t actually offer compelling leasing incentives or if you anticipate having some inventory issues when the consumer ends their lease, they can require a different communication schedule and interval. Remember that attractive pricing or the convenience of getting a new automobile every few years attracted many lease consumers in the beginning.


Reach out to them far in advance of the typical, say nine months beforehand, educate them on the current situation and the challenges they’d likely experience, and remind them of the benefits your dealership and brand can provide. This will activate your CRM. So, if they choose to renew their lease, excellent! You can reserve a car for them or make sure one is available. Or, if they want to buy but need assistance figuring out financing possibilities, you may assist and make sure you keep them as a client with lifetime value.


If you can be proactive with your CRM and stay alongside and in front of those clients, keep in mind that they have a high financial worth and that you don’t want to lose their loyalty or have them cross-shop.


Content affects the choice of vehicle


Let’s face it, clients often have to hunt for alternatives because they are less likely to find the vehicle of their choice. Consumers are more dependent on content to assist them choose a vehicle as cross-shopping increases.


Content was rated as the most crucial element by 69% of new car customers who altered their minds while looking for information about other manufacturers and automobiles.


For instance, a fan of Honda might be looking for a Honda Accord. A Honda customer may need to cross-shop if Honda has a low inventory level right now. Let’s imagine that while they are researching, web material for a Hyundai Sonata arrives. They would need to become more familiar with the competing brand, manufacture, and model in order to decide whether a Sonata is the best option.


This is why cross-shopping depends on content. You should regularly assess how you present yourself to consumers who are not just your current clients or those who are aware of your brand, but also to those who are clients of your rivals. Make sure you are aware of the desires, requirements, and preferences of today’s auto buyers and adjust your content as necessary.


Videos: Over the past two years, there have been major changes. Online videos reaching to the top 3 of the rankings is also not surprising. We discovered that expert test drive films posted online had substantially more influence in particular. Customers may participate in immersive digital experiences thanks to content like test drive videos, especially as more purchases are being made online.


Testimonials: Customer feedback and reviews continue to dominate the list. Buyers in Generation Z and Millennials enjoy seeing and hearing what others believe, which influences their interests and opinions. Since we live in a “Amazon” world where we regularly base our decisions on the experiences of other customers after a purchase, you should frequently highlight this in your digital material.



#2 – Online shopping is preferred by car buyers because of the alternatives


It also probably doesn’t come as a surprise that consumers’ preference for finishing the majority, or all, of the auto buying experience online with the dealer or retailer continues to expand in today’s digital age.


68% declare that they will carry out the majority of the work.


in the future of their vehicle buying process online


80% believe it is a wise or excellent concept.


you buy everything online


Where consumers are compared to where they want to be: Consumers are still enthusiastic about doing more of their shopping online and are saying that they want to do even more in the future.


More consumers than ever before—68%—say they would make most, if not all, of their purchases online in the future. What’s more crucial to remember is that 4 out of 5 consumers believe doing all of their purchases online is a good or excellent idea. It’s time for our industry and you to get ready to meet customers online, where they are now and where they want to be in the future.


Analyze your current digital retailing capabilities and make a plan for the ones you will need to implement over the next years. And keep in mind that just because you create a “Field of Dreams” doesn’t mean that customers will appear of their own volition. You must make sure that part of your marketing plan involves informing and proving to the customer that you have the skills they need and are ready to teach them how to use them.


Point out the advantages of buying a car online: The good news is that doing business online benefits both buyers and sellers. Consumers mostly value the savings in time and money when buying an automobile as a whole.


The process of internet retailing is still relatively new to consumers, despite the fact that they perceive time saved at the dealership and overall efficiency as its top advantages. In their minds, purchasing a $25 item online is very different than purchasing a $40,000 automobile.


Therefore, be sure to emphasize that the differences aren’t as significant as people believe they are and that buying a car online offers the same advantages they want in other digital interactions: seamlessness, fewer friction, time savings, and improved price transparency.


Higher customer happiness and a better car-buying experience may be attributed to digital retailing, and you should make sure your customers are aware of this through both your marketing strategy and in-store interactions.


A recent SimpSocial survey contrasted “Mostly Digital” and “Light Digital” consumers, defined as those who spent at least 50% of their time online throughout the purchasing process. The findings showed that purchasers who shop “Mostly Digital” are more likely to be pleased with the cost, the amount of time spent, and the entire experience.


Most crucially, it revealed that “Mostly Digital” customers are more likely to be brand and dealership loyalists. As a result, given that this market segment will only grow, be sure that your strategy contains options and optimizations for these customers.


A strategy should be in place to link the online and offline worlds of your dealership, but it should also be a constant pillar of attention going forward. Make sure that the online and offline experiences are seamlessly integrated and that everyone can take up the offer from wherever it was left online.


#3: Reimagine the digital retailing potential of your business by connecting to it.


It’s reasonable to say that retailers understand the advantages of digital selling just as much as consumers do.


In the yearly Car Buyer Journey study, we asked dealers how they had been using their digital retailing solutions since 2020. The majority of them are still pleased with their purchases, with 87% claiming that digital retailing has positively impacted at least one aspect of their operations, including sales, profit, and relationships with customers.


A closer look and self-audit: All dealers assess how they would rank the most frequently reported positive impacts seen on the chart above, paying particular attention to the benefits for both consumers and dealers in the areas of time spent on deals, ease of closing deals, staff productivity, and customer relationships.


How would they rate time spent, ease of use, efficiency, and the relationship / experience as a whole if you asked your new sales staff or some of the other newer staff to conduct a 360-degree audit for you, going through all the steps of the online purchase your dealership offers using the digital retailing tools you have?


How to examine the online car-buying procedure at your dealership:


Ask your sales team to start a purchase process, and then time how long it takes to complete.


Ask them to list the difficult and simple tasks they were able to complete online.


If you have such capabilities enabled, make sure to ask them if they were ever retargeted when visiting other websites.


Ask them to evaluate the simplicity of the procedure or identify any obstacles you might not be aware of during the entire buying process, including financing, scheduling a test drive, and other steps.


Ask them to do part of it online and see if one of your existing sales staff knew exactly where to pick up in-store – rate congruency and if the experiences matched.


Remember, the advantage of having newer employees complete this audit is they still have a bit of a zoomed-out lens and will spot things that the older staff are just “used to” as a way of doing business. Count on them for advice and to provide examples from other websites that function.


 By consistently doing this 360-degree online audit monthly, or quarterly, and looking at your competitors in these same categories, you’ll have a proactive strategy to capture more of your ideal customers’ attention online. You’ll also be able to funnel them faster through the deal increasing satisfaction and improving your odds of gaining or retaining the sale.


Additionally, you’ll be able to form a blueprint of the capabilities of your current online digital retailing tools and strategize the tools you’ll need to add in order to provide the full eCommerce experience in the future. According to our research, when it comes to deal-making capabilities, consumers have high expectations of what they can accomplish on dealer websites in terms of digital retailing milestones. So make sure yours are mapped out and easy to find.


Know what your customer wants, needs and prefers digitally: In today’s times, you need to know your customer, know your business, know the experience you offer your customer, and make sure that your digital retailing tools are working for you!


The objectives of your company and the region should be in line with this. For example, a dealership in rural Iowa will have different consumers than that of Laguna Beach, California.  Take a deeper look at what your customers and consumers want when it comes to an omnichannel and an ecommerce experience. Then make sure you build and work around what their preferences are today, as well as plan to build it for the future when it comes to your digital retailing and online capabilities.


New car pre-order: Dealers and OEMs should also be focused on a consumer’s interest in, and increasing appetite for, new car pre-order. By reevaluating how your brand and dealership not only handle it but promote and educate around it online during the entire car buyer journey, you can reinvent your marketing strategy to include this growing capability and demand.


With today’s continued fluctuating inventory, coupled with the rise in consumers saying they want to and are willing to complete new car pre-order now, and in the future, it should be a larger focus of your online and digital retailing strategy for years to come. But remember, this is still “new” to many consumers, and you must educate and assure them of the benefits, as well as show them how it’s successfully done online.


For the future’s path


By understanding what today’s car shoppers’ wants, needs and prefers are, you’ll be able to strategize and capitalize on the digital opportunity for growth. It’s time for dealerships to re-examine their marketing and business strategy to connect and extend their capabilities to attract in-market auto shoppers as well as retain their existing customers.


By implementing the 3 ways listed above into your strategy, you will not only have reimagined a more profitable way to run and operate your business, but you will be aligned with where consumers are headed currently and in the future.


SimpSocial provides you with qualified leads for people that want cars. We have the data, and we have the shoppers. We wish to match their needs with those of our dealer partners in order to generate high-quality leads and, on average, produce gross profits that are 35% greater. We electronically connect you with clients in order to attract them to you, allowing you to concentrate on developing and letting your brand stand out.


SimpSocial offers unrivaled data and insights into consumer behavior, automotive trends, and operational best practices. SimpSocial has the most connected and comprehensive picture of the automotive industry. Whatever your goals, we can help you get there faster and to stay a step ahead and successful in today’s marketplace.

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