What’s in the Cards for Online Vehicle Retailing?

If the post COVID car purchase experience is a Royal Flush, then sanitation is king, online elements are queen, and creating the optimal test drive experience is the ace in the hole. Urban Science and The Harris Poll released data and insights from a June 2020 study of 1,505 consumers to provide a better view of consumer expectations around dealerships and the purchasing process that focused on understanding the individual components of the purchasing experience that were seen as easily moving completely online vs. the components that will remain a draw to pull people into dealerships. Findings indicate that 61% of consumers agree that the entire vehicle purchase process will change forever due to COVID-19.

When posed with the idea of a completely online vehicle purchase process, most consumers see some challenges, with over half of respondents stating that virtual test drives wouldn’t be the same as in person.

Morever, among those who agree that there are elements of the vehicle purchase process that cannot be replicated online and should be done in-person, test drives popped as a top concern (80%), followed by a pretty even split among other aspects such as shopping around/viewing vehicles (40%) vehicle set up/orientation (39%), and financing/paperwork (38%).

In terms of implications, the pandemic may indeed be a key disruptor pushing dealers and consumers further along the transformation curve toward completely online retailing. And while this paints a challenging picture in many ways, with test drives being the golden key to maintaining relevance, successful dealers will recognize and alleviate the purchase journey painpoints and prevail.

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