In May 2020, Mike Jackson and his team hit an inflection point with no turning back. The CEO of AutoNation, an automotive retailer chain that boasts 325 dealerships, witnessed a jump in online-only sales in March and April 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19. Jackson believes online sales will continue increasing even as stay-at-home restrictions are eased. “This is what the industry has needed to do for a long time,” he added.
COVID-19 has absolutely accelerated the pace of change in e-commerce. And it’s not going back. We are heading into a period where consumers and auto companies will rapidly adopt new digital tools and processes to modernize the car-buying process.
However, there is more to this story than just the consumer and industry reaction to coronavirus. The pandemic may have been the accelerator, but consumers have been slowly shifting their car buying habits for quite some time.
What Will the Next Generation, Fully Integrated E-Commerce Car Marketplace Deliver?
In the not-too-distant future, car shoppers will experience fast, comprehensive car shopping online with immediate access to key information from OEMs and dealers. There will be a one-time, efficient entry of their customer information at the point of dealer contact online, and customer data will remain consistent throughout their dealer experience. As a result, customer waiting time will be minimized.
Dealers who embrace the vision will add value with timely, personalized customer experiences that humanize the car brand and buying experience. For example, offering car shoppers test drive opportunities and easy car return options.
Localized dealer messaging and chat will become more focused on providing helpful information about available options and personalized deals based on greater accessibility to regional inventories.
Forward-Thinking OEMs Lead the Way
Among OEMs, GM is currently the e-commerce platform leader, offering a simple “Shop Click Drive” option where customers can order a vehicle and pay online. Fiat Chrysler introduced its own online retail system to help dealers affected by COVID-related shutdowns. Ford, too, has seen dealers offering the ability for customers to manage the paperwork process online.
The industry is also closely following Carvana, the publicly traded digital used-car dealer, that has taken a quantum leap ahead into an Amazon-like marketplace for car shoppers. The digital-first company has made waves with their automobile vending machine, but their real power comes from the transparency and convenience they’ve introduced to car buyers.
The capabilities of digital commerce platforms to drive growth and improve customer satisfaction in a redefined car buying experience is already moving the automotive industry toward a new car buying process. More importantly, it’s reaching new levels of customer satisfaction.
Next Starts Now