Car buyers these days should find that car dealerships are much better at dealing with customers who contact the dealership through online channels and who may wish to switch between online and in-person interactions. This is an area where automotive retail is catching up to other retail sectors.

“From the last time they bought a vehicle until the next, there will be new capabilities. Almost all consumers will experience something new in the process, ”said Kevin Filan, vice president of marketing for the Atlanta-based company. Beetle Automotive.

Even small dealers quite often offer online improvements that seem modest but can dramatically improve customer satisfaction, he said. For example, many dealerships allow customers to make their own service appointments online and communicate with customers via text messages and short videos, as long as customers sign up.

The adoption is also starting to include what the industry calls “end-to-end” online shopping, without ever having to physically walk into a dealership. This includes the difficult parts, like a trade-in, negotiating a new purchase, obtaining financing, signing documents and receiving it at home. Customers online can even have a car delivered for a test drive.

But Filan points out that according to research from Cox Automotive, most people still want someone to walk them through the process, whether it’s in person or through online channels. This is especially true at these difficult decision points, he said.

“First-time buyers, Millennials, have a reputation for wanting to do everything digitally, all the time. But that can be a bit misleading. Millennials have questions, ”said Filan.

Online service has been slowly evolving and improving for years, but the pace of change is now much faster as the coronavirus pandemic has forced car dealerships to embrace online sales and all forms of customer interaction in line, much faster than the automotive industry. before the pandemic.

After all, for car dealerships in states that closed showrooms last year, it was either going online or shutting down.

“There has been a huge increase in adoption since the COVID hit,” Filan said. “We see it everywhere, from large groups, to small rooftops, including independents. “

Cox Automotive subsidiaries include familiar names like Autotrader, Kelly Blue Book, and Mannheim auto auctions. The company provides software and services to consumers and dealers, covering just about every facet of new and used auto sales, wholesale and retail.

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