"We're definitely heading in the right direction, and dealers say that they are committed to making changes to their processes to help get us there," Sonia Kher, manager of research, market intelligence and pricing for Cox Automotive, told Automotive News.
In August, Cox Automotive surveyed 1,859 consumers ages 16 to 64 who intended to buy a vehicle within the next 12 months for its 2020 Digitization of End-to-End Retail Study. In addition, Cox polled 462 franchised dealerships that offer digital retailing. The dealerships surveyed were not limited to Cox Automotive customers, the company said.
Consumers said their interest in completing more pieces of a vehicle purchase digitally has increased since 2017, with the biggest jumps around finalizing the price of a vehicle and reviewing and signing the final contract, according to the survey. Yet consumers' online shopping preferences aren't always in sync with their buying behavior, the survey found.
The biggest gaps between what consumers want to do online and the steps they actually complete online are related to financing applications and approvals and choosing finance-and-insurance products.
Kher said those gaps could be because a dealership doesn't offer those steps online or because a consumer isn't aware that they're available.
The insights, particularly around the financing components, could provide dealers an opportunity to examine their own processes, she said.
Just 1 in 3 dealerships offer all of the purchase steps online, according to the Cox study.
The most commonly offered steps are those that happen early in the process, including researching information on incentives and calculating payments.
Yet 80 percent of franchised dealerships surveyed said they plan to implement more digital purchase elements in the next year or two, with features that allow customers to review and sign paperwork among the most popular steps in the works.