The Benefits of Automotive Digital Retailing

May 19, 2023

Team ACV




The Benefits of Automotive Digital Retailing

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A women searching for a used car via her laptop

In today's fast-paced world, consumers expect convenience, efficiency, and transparency in every aspect of their lives. This is no different when it comes to buying a used or new car. According to a recent study “ 64% of shoppers want to do more of the purchase process online the next time they buy a vehicle”1. In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, the automotive industry responded to this demand with the introduction of Automotive Digital Retailing, a process that allows consumers to buy cars entirely online.

Though there will never be a way to replicate the in-person experience a customer gets when going to a dealership to purchase a car, digital retailing provides auto dealerships with the power to personalize the shopping experience for customers, streamline otherwise time-consuming steps in the buyer journey, and build trust and transparency with car buyers online, before they ever set foot in your dealership.

What Is Automotive Digital Retailing?

At its core, digital retailing provides a virtual footpath for your customers to follow, empowering them to take control of their experience. This process begins with online research, where consumers can browse and compare cars from the comfort of their own home. From there, they can select a vehicle, choose their desired features and options, and obtain a price quote.

But it doesn't stop there. Once a consumer has selected their desired vehicle, they can begin the financing process entirely online. They can get pre-approved for a loan, calculate their monthly payments, and even sign the paperwork without ever having to step foot in a dealership. Some Automotive Digital Retailing platforms even offer home delivery of the vehicle, eliminating the need for the consumer to visit the dealership at all.

Digital retailing is not the same as digital marketing. Digital marketing involves using social media channels, online advertisements, chatbots, and website content, like blogs, to attract customers to your dealership.

Benefits of Automotive Digital Retailing

There are many benefits to using digital retailing in the automotive industry. Digital retailing builds transparency and trust with customers, fostering better customer relationships and loyalty. It improves the customer experience, boosts connections between customers and dealerships, and increases sales. 

  • Transparency: Consumers can see the total cost of the vehicle, including taxes, fees, and any additional costs, upfront. Additionally, consumers can take their time without feeling pressured by a salesperson, enabling them to make an informed decision on their purchase.
  • Reduce Bad Leads: Digital retailing can offer up-to-date and precise interest rates from financial partners, allowing consumers to gain a genuine understanding of their payment options and affordability.
  • Expanded Reach: By offering a digital platform, you can expand your reach to consumers who may not have otherwise considered your dealership. This process also helps streamline the sales process, allowing sales teams to focus on providing excellent customer service, rather than negotiating prices.
  • Improves Margins & Sales: Automotive digital retailing increases margins on sales and net profits, creates seamless deals with fewer errors, and supports a work environment that results in happier and more motivated employees. It also makes dealerships more efficient as per-rep sales increase and creates a more streamlined workflow for a dealership's sales and support staff. 

Challenges of Automotive Digital Retailing

While Automotive Digital Retailing offers many advantages, such as convenience, transparency, and efficiency, there are also some drawbacks to this process.

  • Removes opportunities for test drives: Currently there is no way for customers to test drive the vehicle before purchasing it. This experience can give them a better sense of the vehicle's performance, handling, and features, making them feel more confident in their decision. According to a survey, “test drives are a high priority for the purchase decision, with as many as 67 percent of respondents considering it a ‘very important’ part of the buying process.” 3 
  • Lacks a personal touch: Some consumers prefer to receive face-to-face interactions and personalized service from salespeople, who can answer questions and provide guidance throughout the buying process

The Future of Automotive Digital Retailing

The future of automotive digital retailing is bright. The auto industry is changing before our eyes, and prioritizing digital retailing strategies will help dealerships stay ahead of the curve. As we learned from the lockdown in 2020, adaptability is critical. Connecting with customers online and providing ways for them to research and purchase kept dealerships afloat when they couldn’t conduct sales in person. Customers have come to expect a blended experience of online and in-person shopping, which means reaching well-qualified leads before they physically enter a showroom is the way forward in the post-pandemic era.

According to research, 70% of automotive shoppers expect to calculate accurate payments on dealership websites 2. Customers benefit from partially completing the process online and moving onto  the next steps in-store. This frictionless connection from the online experience to the in-store experience is called connected retailing and is highly valued by customers.

However, you may want to allow customers to do more, such as valuing their trade, getting a soft or hard credit pull, or exploring financing options. As consumers increasingly use automotive digital retailing, they will want to complete more of these next steps online or through a mobile app, so it's crucial that dealerships give them more power and transparency.

ACV Auctions: The Online Auction Platform for Dealerships

Consumer behavior is constantly evolving, and buying vehicles online will soon become the norm. Technology is always changing, and online shopping is here to stay. Finding solutions that work for your dealership now and in the future is critical.

With the used car market rapidly evolving, ACV Auctions is at the forefront of keeping you ahead of the curve. Our platform offers a user-friendly auction experience that allows dealers to quickly source quality vehicles nationwide and access detailed information about their conditions before bidding.

The used car market is evolving, and ACV Auctions is here to help your organization remain at the forefront of rapidly changing technology. Our user-friendly auction platform helps dealers find quality vehicles nationwide and learn about their conditions before bidding. Sign up today.


1. "As the Car-Buying Process Moves Online, Satisfaction Climbs to an All-Time High." Https://www.Coxautoinc.Com/, 1 Jan. 2021, Accessed 18 May 2023.

2. "What Is Automotive Digital Retailing & Why Does It Matter?" Https://www.Activengage.Com/, Accessed 18 May 2023.

3. Choskey, Jessica. "How Important Is the Test Drive to Car Buyers?" Https://Www.Autotrader.Com/, 27 Mar. 2018, Accessed 18 May 2023.