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A new study shows that a new breed of “digital test drivers” are completely skipping the dealership sales process. More than 10% of new-car shoppers are buying vehicles without even seeing them in person. To me, this seems like buying a pair of pants without trying them on – except a thousand times more expensive. But for some consumers, online research and previous experience are enough to make a purchase decision.
This is a rather disturbing trend for dealership sales – test drives are a favorite sales technique for committing a buyer to a vehicle or converting a customer from a competitor. The Maritz Research study, which surveyed 80,219 buyers of 2012 model-year vehicles, found that 11.4% didn’t take a test-drive. It’s the first year the study has asked the question. It also found that 8 out of 10 buyers use the Internet to research vehicles before setting foot in the dealership.
But why aren’t buyers coming into dealerships anymore? The Maritz study reports that some are intimidated by the cutthroat, pushy nature of dealership sales. Some just aren’t very interested in cars, and they’re not willing to invest much time in the purchasing process. But the Internet remains the biggest reason: the wealth of information found through online research is worth more to consumers than any “new car smell.”
When customers aren’t visiting stores to purchase their next cars, what can auto dealers do to clinch dealership sales? Consider adding a virtual test drive to your website or live chat service – a short video tour of a vehicle that offers the same rush of a test drive through your dealership website.
The only way to preserve your dealership sales is to adapt to the rising trends of Internet commerce and research. Implement a progressive solution for your website – as the data indicates, an online dealership may someday be just as important as a physical one.