5 Digital Trends That Are Transforming The Car Buying Experience

The car buying industry is changing fast, just like many other sectors.

The COVID-19 lockdowns and a push towards remote shopping have certainly accelerated the process, but the shift was already well underway before the pandemic hit.

Today, the process of buying a car is very different from even just a decade ago. Much of the automotive customer journey takes place online, with customers seeking out information from a much wider range of sources.

Customer service, though, is just as important as ever. 10% of customers consider it the most important factor when buying a car — ahead of convenience, sustainability, and innovative products.

The message is clear: even though the nuts and bolts of automotive selling have changed, creating rewarding and pleasant experiences for your customers must remain a top priority.

In this article, we’ll dive into 5 major ways digital transformation is changing the way we buy and sell cars, and how retailers can adapt to these new digital trends while continuing to deliver top-class customer experiences.

Mobile Continues to Dominate

Smartphones and other handheld devices are everywhere now, and the automotive customer journey is no exception.

Here are some stats to illustrate this trend:

  • In 2019, there was a 52% increase from 2018 in multiple device or mobile usage to look up vehicle prices, photos, or spec
  • In 2019, 59% of car buyers used mobile and 26% used a tablet in their buying journey

For dealerships, there are some clear takeaways here. It’s more important than ever to adapt to multiple devices and channels and to make sure there are no blind spots in your marketing.

This is one area where an omnichannel marketing strategy can make a big difference — ensuring you stay in touch with your customers at every stage of the process.

It’s All About Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is nothing new for car buyers or retailers, but what’s interesting is that it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

In fact, the US reached $15.91 billion in automotive digital ad spend in 2019 — a 15.8% increase from 2018.

Part of this growing trend is the increasing relevance of platforms like Instagram, especially among younger demographics. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Chatbots, conversational sales, and conversational marketing all play a key role here. As the buying process becomes more firmly cemented in the online space, companies are getting more and more innovative in how they target their customers.

After all, what’s the point in throwing all that advertising money at campaigns to bring traffic to your website, and then hoping that visitors fill out a usually complex form and giving you all their data, before even having a conversation with your brand? Brands need a conversational sales strategy to achieve higher conversions and a better ROI on their marketing spend.

Research Habits are Changing

As advertising becomes increasingly digital, more and more customers are doing their research online.

One interesting result of this is that modern car buyers are much more likely to get their information from third-party sources and less inclined to rely on information from the brands and dealerships themselves.

Today, 56% of new car buyers most commonly start at a third-party site and end up at a dealer website.

Plus, these consumers cast the net wide — visiting an average of 4.2 websites in their purchasing process. They’ll often use multiple devices throughout this process.

All this calls for a more wide-ranging and innovative marketing strategy, one that targets customers across multiple channels and makes use of platforms beyond the brand itself.

Partnerships with other websites and resources, social media influencers, video marketing, and omnichannel strategies, are all ways to achieve this.

On top of that, brands should strive to be as available as possible for their customers and answer as many questions as they have. Chatbots can be a great tool here, with their 24/7 availability and natural Q&A format — combined with a more conversational approach to marketing overall.

More Virtual Shopping

As technology evolves and customers move away from the traditional showroom environment, virtual shopping is becoming increasingly popular.

This is where much of the automotive buying journey — or even the whole thing — can take place virtually. Customers can visit the showroom, see the cars, and meet the staff from the comfort of their own home.

Whisbi’s One-to-Many Video Broadcast solution is one way to achieve this, as they did with Hyundai. Customers were able to tune into a video broadcast where they could not only learn about the cars, but also get a close-up demonstration of them and take part in interactive Q&A sessions.

A lead capture option was provided, allowing interested customers to qualify for a test drive in-store.

The results were impressive:

  • Over 1 million viewers during 9 months, an average of approximately 780 viewers per hour
  • 14% were engaged viewers – viewers who watched the broadcast for more than 3 minutes
  • 3% of the engaged viewers clicked the lead capture feature and were qualified to book a test drive. Of these, 16% completed a test drive at their local dealership.

People are Less Tolerant of Friction

If the internet has done anything, it’s made us all less patient. That’s a good thing — because it reflects how easy and convenient the online buying process has become.

Buying cars is no exception to this, and seamless online car buying experiences are now the expectation. 

The explosion in remote interaction during the COVID-19 crisis has spurred this on — 18% of auto shoppers would buy a vehicle sooner if they could purchase the vehicle they wanted without going to a dealership.

18% of auto shoppers would buy a vehicle sooner if they could purchase the vehicle they wanted without going to a dealership

All this means that smooth, friction-free customer experiences must be a priority for any automotive retailer. Omnichannel approaches are becoming the norm and customer expectations are higher than ever.

Conversational marketing and sales, chatbots, and video marketing broadcasts are just some of the ways Whisbi helps automotive brands achieve a closer and more rewarding relationship with their customers, creating better customer experiences, boosting customer engagement, and driving sales.

To find out how Whisbi can help you engage with your automotive customers and stay in tune with digital trends, get in touch today to arrange a demo.

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