There's a new retail approach for California dealerships that don't mind if a customer never sets foot in the showroom.
Roadster -- a California startup that works as a broker to close deals so consumers can order a car online without coming into a store -- is providing another avenue to sell new vehicles with its Express Storefront platform.
Express Storefront, which is linked to dealership websites, takes most of the buying process online by allowing consumers to choose a vehicle, get approved for credit, value trade-ins, settle on down payments and choose finance and insurance products. Dealership employees take the role of online concierges to help clients through the process.
The dealership delivers the vehicle to the consumer, who fills out paperwork upon delivery to finalize the transaction. Buyers also can schedule pickups at dealerships.
San Francisco's Toyota Marin, part of Price Simms Auto Group, is one of the first dealerships to use the subscription-based Express Storefront service. The platform launched Thursday, June 30, covering California only. Roadster is finalizing subscription pricing.
Price Simms is expected to roll out Express Storefront across the rest of its stores. Another store from a different dealership group has signed on as well, Roadster says.
"This is how consumers want to do business. In every other marketplace, consumers are buying things online, not just researching them," Mike Christian, general manager of Toyota Marin, told Automotive News. "Why wouldn't they want to have the same functionality and the same ability to do that in the automotive space? The answer is they do. We just haven't provided them the technology and forum for them to be able to do that."
Now that consumers have grown used to the convenience of buying everyday items online, automotive retailers are looking at ways to bring that utility to car buying. Dealerships, which long have presented their websites as research tools, gradually are adopting a more transactional mindset by putting more pieces of the buying process online.
Cox Automotive, for instance, has built a vast portfolio of companies through acquisitions in recent years that gives its dealer clients a full suite of online services, from trade-in valuations to price negotiations, that trim the amount of time consumers spend in stores dealing with salespeople and filling out paperwork.
"This is about shifting a lot of those processes that would have normally taken place inside of a dealership online," Andy MacLeay, director of digital marketing for Cox-owned Dealer.com, told Automotive News. "What this allows for, essentially, is the consumer to shop the way they want to shop."