In Spite Of Covid-19 Car Buyers Were Happier In 2020

Car Buying
By Saxarinka/

We’ll take a little credit here at CarProUSA for these numbers. After all, our goal is simply to make the car buying process easy, quicker, and more enjoyable. As I have said on the CarProUSA Radio Show several times, if anything good comes out of the pandemic for car buyers, it is that dealers got really good at being flexible with consumers.

According to Cox Automotive, it turns out that during the age of Covid, car buyers have never been happier with the buying experience. That would appear to be the result of dealers moving more of the car buying process online, which has resulted in consumer satisfaction hitting an all-time high, according to Cox Automotive’s Digitization of End-to-End Retailing (DoEER) study.

According to the Cox Automotive study:

With buyers spending less time in showrooms and benefitting from more efficient, digital retailing processes, those who were “highly satisfied” with the overall shopping experience reached 72%, up from 60% in 2019. The average vehicle buyer now visits only 2 dealerships in the vehicle buying process, down from 2.7 in 2016.

"According to our data, car buyers have never been happier," notes Cox Automotive Vice President of Research & Market Intelligence Isabelle Helms. "Consumers have long asked for a process that is more efficient and requires less time at the dealership. With more steps moving online, that's exactly what they are getting. It is not just consumers who are benefitting. Dealers, too, are seeing the advantages of a more efficient, streamlined purchasing process."

Online Car Sales

While many dealers are moving some or all of the sales process online, not all have done so. Cox Automotive says its study found that only 1-in-3 franchised dealers in the U.S. offer all the purchase steps online. But it’s clear Covid’s prompted many dealers to move in that direction. Cox Automotive says:

  • In 2020, 69% of franchised dealers added at least one digital step due to COVID-19
  • And 74% of dealers indicated their customers have used digital retailing tools more since the onset of the global pandemic.

Cox researchers say these are the most popular activities for online car shoppers:

  • Finding incentive information
  • Calculating monthly payments
  • Applying for credit
  • Finalizing the Vehicle Price

For some perspective, in 2017, Cox Automotive research showed that 25% of buyers wanted to finalize the vehicle price online. By 2020, researchers say that number had jumped to near 40%.

The Future

So what does the future bring? More of what consumers say they want - and according to Cox, that’s more of the process to move online. The study found that 64% of shoppers want more of the process to occur online than the last time they bought a vehicle. Dealers appear to be ready to make that happen. Cox Automotive says its survey shows that 75% of franchised auto dealers agreed they’ll need to adopt digital retail tools and move more of the sales process online in order to survive long-term.

Dealers are seeing benefits in online retailing, too. Cox Automotive says:

  • 61% of franchised dealers note that digital retailing efforts are allowing them to spend less time on a sale
  • More than half believe it helps them improve the customer experience.
  • 75% of dealers agree that digital retailing provides shoppers a more customized experience, a key to higher satisfaction with the shopping process.
  • 80% of franchised dealers surveyed in the study indicated they plan to offer even more parts of the purchase process online in the next 1-2 years.

Cox Automotive also notes that physical auto dealerships still have a critical role to play in the car buying experience, and that it’s research also: “consistently demonstrates that automobile shoppers still have a strong desire to spend quality time at the dealership, test driving the vehicle and setting up their new vehicle after purchase – both hands-on activities that are a lot more fun and informative than filling out paperwork and waiting.”

About the Study

The Cox Automotive Digitization of End-to-End Retailing study was undertaken to measure and understand the shifts in consumer preference toward a more online purchase process. Beginning in August 2020, a total of 1,859 purchase intenders were interviewed, along with 462 franchised auto dealers that offer digital retailing tools.

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