I love getting new data in my inbox.
As a reporter writing about technology, it has been interesting to watch dealerships' rapid uptake of software tools over the past year to transact virtually with customers. Even before COVID-19, surveys indicated consumers were becoming more receptive to buying vehicles online, even if dealerships weren't fully able to meet them there.
That trend line for consumers has continued to grow during the pandemic, and now data is showing what my colleagues and I have heard anecdotally — that more dealerships are embracing digital.
The transition toward an online sales future is likely on more of a hybrid path, at least in the near term. Retailers' use of the term "omnichannel" reflects this approach, indicating their intentions to cater to customers whether they want to buy online, in-store or with some combination of the two.
A recent consumer survey by Deloitte highlighted reasons that vehicle buyers may prefer both approaches. Convenience, speed and ease of use topped the list for people interested in a digital process, while viewing the vehicle and taking it for a test drive were the main reasons for transacting in person. Some consumers said they weren't comfortable with an online purchase or preferred in-person interactions.
When I bought my new Jeep Cherokee in January, my experience was squarely in the hybrid camp. I wanted to test drive the vehicle but do everything else online. Most of the negotiating happened over the phone, and I ended up signing paperwork in person — but I avoided waiting at the dealership by making appointments to test drive the vehicle and finalize my purchase. Everything was ready for me when I arrived.
Going forward, dealerships will have to strike a balance that accommodates consumers who want to visit a store and those who prefer to self-serve online — and make it as seamless as possible for those who want to do both.