The nature of business requires dealerships to be adaptable to change.

Across all industries, the companies that maintain success are those who understand the inevitability of change and are willing to move past the status quo.


Any idea or strategy, no matter how effective, is subject to change over time, due to evolving consumer trends and technology. The constant industry evolutions spur some companies forward, while other fall out of touch and lag behind. The churning cycle of trends and technology is always ready to reward businesses who embrace change.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen several new developments in consumer demands, such as the impact of digital service channels and e-commerce platforms on the retail landscape. In the past, a customer’s visit to the physical dealership was the foundation of the buying process, but now consumers want a blend of digital and in-person experiences. The GE Capital Retail Bank Major Purchase Study has found that 81% of consumers perform at least part of the buying process online when making a large purchase.

In this article, we will explore new developments in the consumer landscape and why dealers need to evolve to meet the expectations of their shoppers. We will also take a deep look at how dealers can use the increasingly competitive landscape to their advantage.


Consumer Expectations Are Shifting

The recent rise of digital retailing has significantly influenced consumers’ shopping habits. Consumers are now better informed than ever before, researching their dream unit online down to the last detail – including calculating the monthly payment or the value of a unit they want to trade.

Consumers today want the freedom to make choices such as browsing units and filling out financial applications online versus at the dealership. A Digital Retailing Study by Cox Automotive supports this notion by revealing customers’ growing preference for digital processes:

  • 60% of consumers develop brand affinity for dealerships that offer options for digital negotiation and financing
  • 57% are more likely to return to the dealership if it offers digital negotiation and financing processes
  • 62% are willing to travel farther if they know the dealership offers a digital buying process

Whichever path they ultimately choose, shoppers expect dealers to deliver the simplicity and convenience that a modern shopping journey is supposed to offer.

Unfortunately, while consumers have embraced the plentiful options and information of the digital age, many dealerships continue to rely on decades-old sales strategies and customer service habits. Dealers who aren’t adapting to consumers’ preferences are steadily being outpaced by their future-focused competitors. In order to achieve success in today’s environment, dealers need to adopt a more consumer-focused approach, or risk losing being overtaken in the market by dealers who can meet these demands.


Navigating the Competitive Digital Landscape

As brands shift to online shopping operations and consumers’ options expand, the race to win shoppers’ business become fiercer. The digital landscape is only becoming more saturated as businesses adapt to modern marketing strategies.

This competition is a benefit to consumers because it expands their horizon of possibilities. Consumers can research inventory, choose their preferred buying options and identify which dealerships are invested in providing a digital path to purchase.

The rate at which dealers adapt to new digital techniques varies greatly. Some dealers, while continuing to deliver top-notch customer service in person, aren’t giving much consideration to their online customers. And this is a mistake that shoppers notice when they’re trying to move away from the traditional purchase process.

Consumers aren’t the only group who can benefit from a digital path to purchase – dealers can use the endless digital channels to appeal to more shoppers and expand their sales opportunities to a larger audience. The key to making the most of the competitive digital landscape is to embrace the new trends and technologies we’re seeing today.


Embracing Digital Strategies

The surge in digital transformation has taught consumers to expect greater personalization from the buying process—thanks to the online retailers who have already adapted their business approach to embrace the opportunities of digitization. The personalization that consumers want includes online advertisements based on their interests and purchase suggestions related to what they’ve browsed on your website.

The increasing expectation for personalized experiences is pushing dealers to employ technology solutions that captures consumer behaviors and interests and in turn creates customized journeys full of targeted recommendations. Dealers can utilize the consumer data to improve their marketing campaigns and increase the rate of conversions from leads to sales.

Streamlining and personalizing the buying experience also helps dealers optimize their resource management. After all, trying to juggle online and offline experiences as two separate processes can be expensive and cumbersome. By treating the online and offline touchpoints as an interconnected process, dealers can identify the solutions that work for your hybrid customers, as well as track how your process is performing overall.

The Harvard Business Review has found that 73% of consumers use multiple channels during the buying journey. In order to meet your customers wherever they’re shopping, your dealership needs to consistently assess how well your online and offline processes align, including consolidating your consumer insights, information and resources into one strategy.

Ultimately, the success of your customer engagement strategies depends on whether you have good consumer data. The right data allows your dealership to meet consumers’ expectations for your business and reach the right shoppers in the right way at the right time.


Improving the Customer Experience

The end goal in streamlining your digital and in-store process is to improve the consumer’s path to purchase. A hybrid method delivers the seamless, flexible shopping that consumers want, as it allows them can to pause and resume their journey as needed, regardless of the platform or device they’re using, and without losing their place or needing to repeat a step. It also means that consumers who begin the process online can complete their purchase with ease at the dealership, even if they have never visited before.

Understandably, consumers can become frustrated if they have to repeat steps at the dealership that they had already completed online, such as revisiting their trade-in valuation or filling out another form to apply for credit. This also wastes time and energy for your sales team and creates more hurdles they must overcome to make that final sale.

A seamless blend of in-store and online touchpoints also helps your team recognize a consumer who’s ready to buy. Consumers today like to review the prices of a unit prior to visiting the dealership so that they know what to expect. If the price listed online doesn’t match what they see at the store, this could result in frustration and lost sales. By providing a convenient and comprehensive online payment calculation tool, you can mitigate the risk of a price mismatch resulting in someone having to pay the difference.



The digital transformation of the consumer landscape is the result of the constant drive for change across all industries. Dealers need a multi-faceted approach that moves beyond traditional marketing strategies to deliver the options, simplicity and versatility that shoppers have come to expect.


By investing in digital solutions and greater personalization of the buying process, your dealership can benefit from a stronger brand reputation, increased customer loyalty and higher revenue. Change is a core part of the nature of business, and by taking the initiative to adapt now, forward-thinking dealers can ensure their business thrives in the future instead of falling behind.