Digital Showrooms: Online Car Buying Is Here To Stay

The way we buy cars has changed, almost beyond recognition in some cases.

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly helped nudge this shift along, it was already well underway long before the virus arrived.

Buying anything online has been a creeping trend for the past several years. With the onset of lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders across the world, this trend exploded, with a 21% increase in online shopping between March 2019 and March 2020.

Car buying is no exception to this. And now, prompted by COVID-19, overall demand for car buying is also on the rise, driven by a desire to feel safe and rely less on public transport.

Many of these new automotive customers will be starting and perhaps ending their car buying journey online.

So how is all this impacting the online car buying process, and what can dealerships, marketers, and sales staff do to make sure they embrace these trends and profit from them?

Let’s find out.

People Want to Buy Cars Online More

The pandemic has solidified a desire that was already there. People are used to buying everything digitally now — from jewelry to their weekly groceries. Why should cars be any different?

In a pandemic-stricken world, customers are even keener to buy their cars through a screen. 18% of people in a recent survey said they’d buy a car sooner if they could do it online.

There’s also a growing demand for at-home delivery of cars. Simply put, people have become accustomed to an economy where they can buy anything they want from their laptop and have it arrive at their front door in a few business days.

For car dealerships, this is a major challenge. Most dealerships are heavily rooted in the offline way of doing things. Until very recently, websites have existed mainly as a platform for cursory research, with the primary goal of getting visitors to come to the showroom and not much more.

Making the shift to a digital model has been tough, and it’s not something that can happen overnight. But the potential rewards are enormous. Auto dealers that can adopt a digital approach could win big and seize an important advantage.

Whisbi helped Toyota embrace digital trends to deliver a better customer experience and adapt to this new auto economy.

We helped them implement one-to-one chatbots to streamline and improve the customer experience, changing their website from a static, one-way environment to an interactive and informative one.

The results were impressive:

  • 56% of all leads used the one-to-one solution to book test drives
  • Online customer satisfaction skyrocketed, with 95% of customers loving the service
  • The Toyota models featured gained up to 413 test drives a month

There’s an Appetite for Online Dealership Experiences

People are tired of traveling for hours to see a car dealer. They felt this way before the pandemic, and that feeling has been accelerated in a world where it’s even more important to stay close to home.

But how do you replace the traditional car showroom? Surely the process of seeing the car up close, asking questions in real-time, and getting advice and suggestions is tough to replicate in a digital environment?

Well, apparently not. Auto shoppers ranked the following alternatives to offline showrooms:

  1. At-home test drive
  2. Review videos
  3. Digital showroom
  4. Online configurator
  5. VR test drive
  6. Videoconference

As the list shows, there are plenty of popular alternatives to traditional showrooms, and they all rely heavily on technology.

Auto companies who take the time to harness technology will be able to attract this new audience and provide a suite of new services — bringing much of the dealership experience completely online.

This is what Whisbi did with Skoda. We used Whisbi’s One-to-One Assistant solution to create a live tour option — a digital showroom where customers can explore the cars, meet the staff, ask questions, and interact.

The results speak for themselves:

  • 95% customer satisfaction
  • 48% of Live Tour customers requested a test drive
  • 2,000 Live Tours have been completed
  • 10% of test drivers went on to buy a car

Digital Events Are on the Rise

Big, in-person events are all canceled for a while, at least.

In this new world, forward-thinking dealerships are finding ways to bring events online, creating digital showrooms and experiences that deliver everything an offline event would.

These events can even be more successful than traditional ones, reaching a larger number of people and avoiding constraints on physical space and timing.

What makes digital events so impactful? Here are some reasons to consider hosting one:

  • They’re green. Digital events reduce the need for cross-country travel and big hosting spaces. They’re a much less energy-intensive way to gather thousands of people in one ‘room’.
  • They’re scalable and flexible, unlikely to max out in terms of space like a physical event, and it’s easy to manage signups and cancelations
  • They’re more convenient for attendees. They can attend from their laptop or any other device wherever they are in the world, making it much easier to find the time.
  • They come in all shapes and sizes, from product demos to crisis communications. It’s the perfect way to bring your team and customers together, regardless of physical location.

An example of a digital event that we helped carry out here at Whisbi was the Hyundai Elantra launch.

Using our platform, Hyundai was able to live stream the launch of its 2021 Elantra to a vast audience of viewers. In fact, the footage (including a tease video, live stream, and walk-around clip) gained nearly 800,000 combined views.

Whisbi’s One-to-Many broadcast solution isn’t just for groundbreaking international product launches. It can also be used to host presentations and demos to more niche audiences, too — allowing for Q&A sessions and real-time interaction.

The world has changed. While the COVID-19 crisis won’t last forever, the effects on the automotive industry probably will.

It’s time for brands to make the move to a different way of doing sales and marketing, one that’s more conversational, more convenient, and more digital.

To find out how Whisbi can help you take your brand to the next level and adapt to this new online world, get in touch today to book a demo.

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