Car Buying Goes Virtual, Online and in the Showroom



Dealerships that haven’t invested in building out more accessible and informative websites have already felt the pinch of lower lead generations and few customer conversions, even amongst in-person vehicle shoppers. The better positioned your website is to answer shoppers’ questions and deliver the information they need in a media-rich environment, the better you’ve been doing.


This trend is only picking up steam, and dealership investments in online technologies will be increasingly important in the coming years.


In fact, recent research suggests that it isn’t just online but also in showrooms that shoppers are looking for digital and virtual experiences to enhance the car-buying process and reduce the need for what many see as high-pressure sales situations—including test drives.


Virtual Test Drives Blur the Line Between Online and In-person Car Buying

Some drivers are clearly looking for an online-only buying experience—a growing number of shoppers never set foot in a dealership until a price has been negotiated and the deal is ready to sign. They’re even eschewing in-person test drives in favor of “virtual test drives” that take place online via interactive videos. For these car buyers, your dealership’s online presence has to be media-rich and comprehensive if you’re to have any hope of even acquiring them as a lead, let alone closing the sale—your website may literally be your only point of contact prior to the moment you ink the deal.


For other twenty-first century automotive shoppers, though, the online portion of the purchasing process is a beginning they want to see transition seamlessly to the showroom. Car dealer industry research conducted by consulting firm Frost and Sullivan suggests that shoppers are increasingly looking for digital media and virtual test drive capabilities even in dealership showrooms—technologies in which leading dealerships in some markets are already investing.

The researchers predict the by the end of 2016, up to 30 percent of dealership space will be devoted to technologies meant to enhance the in-person car-buying experience, and to better integrate it with online shopping capabilities.


Dealerships that aren’t fully onboard with digital outreach and value-adding technologies that make the car-buying process more efficient, transparent, and intuitive are going to find themselves with a dwindling customer base. Though driving itself still takes place in the real world, the car buying process has largely gone virtual, and successful dealerships will have to keep up.


Guest author Collin Davis is the chief technology officer at Dealer Video Showroom, a Certified Technology Provider