Car buyers are keen to transform experience

Industry

It’s not that consumers don’t want to visit a dealership when they buy a vehicle. They do.

Generally, though, few are satisfied with how quick and convenient the process is. That’s among the takeaways from a new Cox Automotive survey that asked 2,000 consumers of driving age what they think about ideas to reinvent the dealership.

Consumers still want to look at a car in person and ask questions of experts who can explain the vehicle’s features and technology. But they also want to complete at least part of the purchase process online before they go to a dealership to save time. And they’re intrigued by the concept of a “brand experience center” that flips the traditional showroom on its head by giving customers the chance to learn about a vehicle without an accompanying sales pitch.

“It would be a no-pressure situation and would motivate me to learn more on my own about the brand and possibly motivate me to purchase it,” one respondent wrote of the brand experience center concept, according to the Cox study.

This month’s Retail Technology page highlights efforts to remove friction from the dealership, in sales and service and as part of the hiring process. Technology plays a role.

Brand experience centers and other alternative store formats may be longer-term efforts, the Cox survey notes. In the short term, dealers can begin to offer home vehicle deliveries and deploy product specialists separate from the sales staff and who can help answer customers’ questions.

New York City dealer Brian Benstock says retailers must embrace technology to improve the customer experience. That’s crucial to avoid being left behind as the industry continues its digital transformation, he said. His Honda and Acura stores now pick up and drop off customer vehicles for service. They are beta testing a sales model that includes home delivery.

As Benstock pointed out, and as the Cox study affirms, dealers must evolve to keep pace with consumers’ changing attitudes toward buying a car. How will they do it?

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