Why Physical Dealerships Still Matter

December 22, 2022

Team ACV




Why Physical Dealerships Still Matter

ACV facts & figures

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A black used car in a car dealership

The long pandemic, combined with the public’s increasing comfort with technology, continues to influence the way consumers purchase vehicles. For some, the changes in buying options meant shifting their entire car shopping journey virtually: Searching for their vehicle of choice, purchasing it online, and having it delivered to their home, all without any face-to-face interaction¹. At the same time, the traditional method of shopping at a dealership continues to hold value and provide benefits that simply cannot be replicated over the internet. In today’s environment, successful dealerships combine face-to-face and digital marketing efforts and services to attract customers and make sales.

4 Reasons It Pays to Maintain a Physical Car Dealership Location

1. Trying Before Buying

Purchasing a car at a dealership holds some attractive benefits for consumers, especially when it’s time to test-drive a vehicle and get a sense of how it feels. For many drivers, getting behind the wheel of a car to experience the handling, decide whether the seats are comfortable, and explore the onboard features can make or break their decision to buy. This is information the customer simply won’t have if they’ve only seen photographs online.

Similarly, shopping in person makes it easier for customers to ask questions as they come up. Being able to talk to an expert helps customers connect the vehicle with their preferences and build trust in the dealership. On the sales side, these conversations also help the dealer identify and address any concerns the customers may have before closing a deal².

2. Professional Insights

Perhaps one of the greatest changes in modern shopping is the way consumers search for information. Before making a purchase, they’ll spend time looking online at reviews, candid opinions on forums and social media, and online safety and reliability ratings. They’ll also look at multiple sources to learn about a car’s manufacturer-suggested retail price (MSRP) and average second-hand prices to see how far their budget will go. Consumers come into dealerships well-prepared and use their research to decide what vehicles they are most interested in³.

If consumers gather information online and benefit from in-person visits, dealerships may prefer using a combined approach for success. Maintaining a social media presence gives potential customers a way to ask questions directly and for the dealership to start nurturing that lead. Being active online also lets you share the types of news and ratings consumers are interested in.

Think of it as meeting potential customers halfway: Dealerships can bring the information to the consumer, simplifying their research process while keeping them within your information ecosystem. In addition to social media, having a website is essential for building credibility and providing a place to post inventory, relevant service information, and user reviews⁴. Just like their independent research, shoppers will use this information to inform their visit and purchase.

3. Flexible Shopping Experience

Dealerships looking to expand their customer base aren’t limited to providing information and customer interaction online. Selling vehicles through a dealership can be a hybrid experience. Selling vehicles online creates another avenue for completing a sale and gives customers the opportunity to schedule an in-person experience as part of their decision-making process.

Specific steps in the in-person car buying process can be partially replicated online, such as dealer-customer interactions. An online live chat is a great way for someone to get their questions answered quickly—and give the customer a meaningful reference if they decide to visit the dealership. Likewise, some of the benefits of online purchases can be transferred to the physical dealership, such as at-home delivery when a car needs service before leaving the lot. 

4. Meaningful Customer Relationships

It’s important to remember that customers need more than a one-way interaction. When done correctly, converting a lead to a sale can pay dividends in developing consumer trust and brand recognition. Positive interactions with customers can lead to good reviews both on the dealership site and third-party sites, such as Google reviews or automotive forums. But don’t ignore any negative reviews—analyzing recurring trends in reviews can provide valuable insight into your customer base’s preferences⁵. Responding to reviews and seeking to correct the situation also reflects well on your business.

At the end of the day, nothing can replace the interactions between a customer and a dealership representative or the experience of driving a vehicle for yourself. Dealerships continue to be an essential part of the process. The rise of digital research and purchasing options will help the auto industry evolve, and there’s plenty of room for the dealership experience to grow with it.

For dealers looking to stay ahead of the curve, using social media, reviews, and company websites to ease customer research, provide an avenue for back-and-forth interactions, and showcase inventory are great ways to provide a boost. 

Count on ACV Auctions for a Well-Stocked Dealership Lot

If you’re in the market for pre-owned vehicles for your dealership, ACV Auctions is ready to help. They’re the go-to marketplace for finding high-quality vehicles at transparent and attractive prices. Use the car auction platform filters to customize your search and keep an eye on the cars, trucks, and SUVs your customers are most eager to buy. You’ll also get access to real-time pricing data and condition reporting so you can feel confident about your bids. Register today! 



1. Korn, M. (28 March 2021). More consumers are shopping online for cars. Can dealerships keep up? ABC News. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://abcnews.go.com/Business/consumers-shopping-online-cars-dealerships/story?id=76650042

2. Randall, M. (18 October 2021). Can digital and physical meet at the dealership? EY.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/automotive-transportation/can-digital-and-physical-meet-at-the-dealership

3. Ellett, J. (8 February 2018). New Research Shows Growing Impact Of Online Research On In-Store Purchases. Forbes. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett/2018/02/08/new-research-shows-growing-impact-of-online-research-on-in-store-purchases/

4. Kwanten, A (4 October 2021) Car Buyers Want A Hybrid Of Online And Offline Shopping Experiences, Surveys Say. Forbes Wheels. Retrieved December 19, 2022 from https://www.forbes.com/wheels/advice/car-buyers-want-a-hybrid-of-online-and-offline-shopping/

5. Why Auto Dealerships Need a Digital Presence to Succeed. Reputation. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://reputation.com/resources/articles/automotive-dealerships-your-customers-dig-your-digital-experience/