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CUSTOMERS who have embraced digital retailing, and use it to select a vehicle, have a better car-buying experience and are responsible for dealers selling cars faster, according to a report into the digital marketplace by Cox Automotive’s Dealer.com.

The Digital Deal Whitepaper report adds that dealers who provide digital services to consumers will improve their efficiency and profitability by closing more deals and selling more add-on products.

“To many dealers, digital retailing represents a mere extension of traditional website lead generation, with tools ranging from car payment calculators to credit approval forms,” the Cox report said.

“It may be one of the automotive industry’s most buzzed-about terms but is also its most misunderstood.

“It can also be perceived as a threat to long-standing operational best practices and a loss of control over the deal.

“But new research shows that digital retailing is shaping the automotive online car shopping experience to the benefit of both dealers and consumers alike by helping save consumers time and helping dealers sell faster and more effectively.”

The report said that consumers now expect a seamless online-to-offline shopping and buying experience.

“As dealerships evolve to stay relevant in this new age of online shopping, they are now faced with both digital marketing and in-store operational changes as competition continues to rise,” the report said.

“In 2000, only 22 per cent of Americans indicated that they had ever made a purchase online. But by 2016, that number rose to 79 per cent.

“Immediate access to digital information has generated a sense of entitlement to fast, simple and efficient shopping experiences – from meals to mortgages and, now, automotive.”

The Dealer.com report said that shopping online “delivers a sense of control and transparency that can successfully set the foundation for trust between consumer and vendor”.

The report quotes a 2016 Pew Research Center report that said: “When buying something for the first time, more than eight-in-10 Americans say it is important to be able to compare prices from different sellers (86 per cent), to be able to ask questions about what they are buying (84 per cent), or to buy from sellers they are familiar with (84 per cent)”.

“Automotive digital retailing addresses these consumer demands and concerns and offers a platform to perform research and make comparisons across a competitive marketplace for goods.”

Dealer.com said this evolution toward online shopping becomes even more pronounced when it comes to millennials “who are most comfortable researching online and more likely to shop by payment than any other demographic”.

“While younger car buyers, who will account for 40 per cent of all car buyers by 2020, are just as inclined to buy and lease as any other demographic, they are the least satisfied with the current in-store experience – a trend potentially driven by their high comfort level with eCommerce.

“These survey results suggest that digital retailing has become more than just a helpful way for retail to engage with online consumers: Digital retailing is now a requirement fueled by the consumers’ preferred shopping experience.”

By Neil Dowling

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