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Disruption in the Automotive Industry: How Digital is Changing Car Sales

Disruption isn’t new in the auto industry. Brands – and OEMs – rise and fall, new technologies change the game, consumer preferences shift and external factors like interest rates and gas prices can make dealers scramble to adapt to a suddenly changing marketplace.

In recent years, some of the single biggest automotive industry trends revolve around the rise of digital tools that empower both consumers and dealers to know more and engage more effectively – if the right tools are used in the right way.

In this blog, Mastermind explores the digital future of the auto industry and looks at how modern digital tools are:

- Getting consumers into – and out of – the market for a new vehicle at unprecedented speed

- Simplifying the already challenging process of engaging prospects through digital marketing

- Making the dealership customer experience more important than ever before

Pre-Purchase Car Research Condenses Time-in-Market

One of the most important automotive industry trends is the degree to which car shopping online has changed the relationship between dealers and consumers. While purely online car sales have not yet materialized to the degree that many predicted, the breadth and depth of information and capabilities online have armed consumers with more information and insights than ever before.

Today's digital-savvy car buyers are increasingly looking for objective, third-party sites during their car buying  journey. According to a 2019 study by Cox Automotive, third-party sites are the most used of any online resource for car shopping and research, with 80 percent of all car buyers visiting third-party sites during the shopping process.

Additionally, the availability of online tools has shortened the process of buying a car. According to Cox Automotive, the time spent shopping and researching a vehicle purchase continues to go down as consumers get more online tools to automate and accelerate the process. Between 2017 and 2019, the average amount of time consumers spent shopping and researching a new vehicle purchase shortened by more than a half hour, from 13 hours and 48 minutes to 13 hours and 6 minutes. It decreased even more for used vehicle purchases, from 15:07 to 14:12, a decrease of almost an entire hour in just two years. 

Cutting the amount of time that consumers spend shopping and researching contributes to decreasing how long they’re in the market for their purchase, eliminating an average of 22 days from time in market, from 118 days in 2017 to 96 days in 2019.

The Changing Face of Automotive Digital Marketing

This means it’s more important than ever before that car dealership digital marketing is as targeted as possible. And in today’s digital environment, “targeted” means more than simply having the right prospect. It also means having the right offer, delivering that offer at the right time within the constantly shrinking window of opportunity of the consumer being on the market and then connecting in the right format that meets the consumer where they are. 

In digital terms, this means that in order to give their customers the best online digital car buying experience, dealers need to make sure their digital dealership marketing is powered by predictive analytics tools that deliver communications tailored to the devices your customers are using. It’s not just identifying which prospects are on a computer, which use tablets, and which are doing their research on smartphones. Cox Automotive’s research into car sales trends found that more than half of car buyers today do their research on multiple devices. Almost 60 percent use a smartphone to shop for a car, but more than three quarters use a desktop or laptop. While tablets such as iPads are becoming less common as phones become bigger and more powerful, they’re still used in a quarter of digital car sale experiences.

Elevating Dealership Customer Experience

In our digital world, consumers know what they want, they know how they want to be treated – and they’re not shy about sharing with all their friends and connections when a dealer (or any other company) doesn’t meet their expectations. Here at Mastermind, there’s one fundamental common factor we see in dealerships that are thriving in today’s marketplace versus those that are struggling: Their commitment to delivering a great customer experience.

Digital connectivity and capabilities are a double-edged sword for customer experience in the dealership environment. They’ve increased customer expectations for personalized service, but they’ve also given dealers tools like Market EyeQ that provide the necessary capabilities to meet (or exceed) those expectations. 

Consider this: According to PwC, nearly 80 percent of American consumers value speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service as the most important elements in a positive customer experience. 

Market EyeQ – or any digital tool – can’t make your staff any friendlier. But it certainly can make the process of buying a car faster and more convenient. It can also ensure your sales and F&I teams have all the information and insights they need to provide personalized and knowledgeable service.

Those capabilities extend beyond the sales floor and F&I room to the service drive and other fixed ops opportunities for consumer engagement. Through ongoing engagement and digital analytics, dealers can continually connect with customers to identify new opportunities for revenue while deepening the customer experience relationship and building long-term loyalty.

Are you trying to navigate digital disruption in the auto industry and position your dealership to engage and win in this new environment? Contact us to find out how Mastermind’s combination of auto industry expertise and digital excellence is driving results for dealers of all types and sizes.

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