Retail

The Car Dealership As An Omnichannel Seller

Car dealers and auto groups want to put their vehicles on the information superhighway – and for good reason: According to a report from Bain & Company, nearly half of car buyers begin their process online. And consumers may prefer car dealerships that offer eCommerce options: Seven out of 10 consumers are more likely to choose a dealership that offers online car buying, according to car buying platform Roadster. To help attract these customers, Roadster allows car dealers to bring the car buying process – or at least some elements of it — online.

Using services such as Roadster’s Express Storefront, car buyers can search a dealership’s inventory on multiple devices and receive upfront pricing information. The software also allows consumers to build a deal, value their trade-in and add service and protection plans to their purchases. In addition, shoppers can add accessories like cargo nets and cross bars.

The idea behind the functionality is to bring the car buying process into the digital age: “They can pretty much buy the car 100 percent online for the percentage of the population that wants to do that,” Roadster’s Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Denogean told PYMNTS.com, adding that most dealers today will even deliver cars to consumers.

Platforms like Roadster, however, don’t serve as the dealership’s website company. Instead, such software allows buttons to appear throughout the dealership’s website to show the buyer that the dealership offers online commerce. This type of solution appeals to dealerships that might want to cover a wider area, for example. One of Roadster’s dealerships, which is located in Queens, New York, seeks to have a “store without walls” and wants to serve Manhattan, too. In line with that goal, software like Roadster can help that dealership to expand their footprint and get people thinking about buying a car from the comfort of home.

Consumer Comforts

Even with the availability of services like Roadster, not all consumers are comfortable buying a car completely online. Denogean said that Roadster, for example, sees only 10 percent of consumers completing the car buying process 100 percent on the internet. As a result, it’s critical for dealerships to offer a variety of ways for consumers to purchase cars, in addition to going through the whole process online. “That’s why the omnichannel piece is so important,” Denogean said. “Most people at some point during the process do go into the store.”

In fact, the Bain & Co. study found that when consumers purchase cars, they switch between online and offline channels four times – and want to move seamlessly between them. Many consumers may be comfortable completing some parts of the transaction online, but want to conduct other parts in a dealership.

Consumers on the Roadster platform, for example, might want to structure their deal, understand pricing or get a sense of the trade-in value before walking into a dealership – but they might want to finalize the payment and sign paperwork in the dealership. Over time, Denogean believes that the percentage of consumers completing car buying transactions online will increase.

“It will grow as people get more comfortable,” she said, adding that Roadster was built for that transition, so people could become familiar with participating in parts of the car buying process online.

The Road Ahead

Platforms like Roadster currently work more with dealership groups rather than individual dealers – although such solutions can serve all types of customers. Often a dealer group will try out the product with a pilot store. “They may be experimenting because they know this is something that’s coming, and they want to get their feet wet, so they’ll sign one store and then grow the list of stores on the platform from there,” Denogean said.

In terms of payment options, Roadster lets the dealers set those: Consumers will often see options through captive finance providers alongside other options the dealer chooses to display.

Going forward, Denogean believes there is still opportunity in the space for platforms like Roadster to grow. The company is looking to offer more integrations and desking capabilities for the dealerships. And overall, companies like Roadster are seeking to change the car selling process: “We are looking to change and evolve the way dealerships sell cars,” Denogean said.

As time goes on, perhaps more consumers will move from researching cars online to buying them on the internet, too.

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