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Automotive eCommerce Industry Trends in 2023

Gen Z is entering the automotive market, and Millennials have driven many of the advancements in car shopping options. As a result, vehicle sales will never be the same. Customer expectations are evolving, and your dealership must stay agile or get left behind.

One of the primary changes is online shopping, it’s become mainstream. Further, eCommerce is the route that meets Gen Z and Millennial shoppers where they are. In fact, it’s changing car shopping so much that physical dealerships are shrinking outside of housing inventory.

So, what are some popular automotive eCommerce industry trends in 2023?

Well, here is what we are seeing so far…

Online Car Shopping

While this isn’t a novel business idea, what’s different is that more shoppers are buying brand new and customized cars online. Further, a Frost & Sullivan study found that in 2020, around 5% of all new car sales were made online. By 2025, online car sales are expected to reach around 6 million.

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If that seems a small percentage, well consider that close to 20 million cars are sold annually. So, 5% is just under a million cars purchased via eCommerce, with the number expected to grow. In addition, Germany takes the lead for new cars sales online with 10% of their annual car sales made online.

Online Showroom

Audi took the lead by creating the Audi VR Experience in 2015. Prospects could test drive their preferred cars virtually using VR glasses. They could also customize their dream cars down to the model, color, add-ons, and trim.

Moreover, customers could pick any type they wanted without any restrictions to what they might find on a physical car lot.

So what happened next? Well, Audi increased their sales numbers up to 70%. Also, around 50% of these customers ordered their customized car without “kicking the tires” so to speak. In the future, customers will demand an online one-stop-shop for their cars.

For instance, an eCommerce site that not only offers customizable cars, but also parts, services, and accessories.

Technology-Backed Dealerships

Forward-thinking car dealerships are using advanced technologies to improve processes and the customer experience–primarily with mobile devices. If a prospect does purchase on-site, then the salesperson can use a tablet to immediately research prices, VIN numbers, inventory, and more.

Using this method can make the car shopping experience more convenient and less stressful for buyers. There is nothing worse than sitting in a dealership waiting room, drinking stale coffee, and twiddling your thumbs wondering if they have the car you want at the price you want.

Even if the salespeople know these numbers by heart, it increases customer confidence when they can see the display for themselves. Plus, more than anything, it’s convenient. Tech-savvy customers want convenience and immediate gratification.

But, wait, there’s more.

Salespeople can also streamline the buying process by guiding the entire purchase and document signing via a tablet. Moreover, they can set up kiosks throughout the showrooms where customers can help themselves and have their questions answered without waiting for the next available salesperson.

Text Messaging

Currently, phone calls are the standard when it comes to service updates. But has your dealership ever considered adding a texting option?

While phone calls have been the traditional route for sending service updates, it’s much faster to send a text. Millennials and Gen Z are so adept at texting, it’s become second nature. Not to mention, people rarely answer phone calls anymore. Yet, it’s not just Millennials and Gen Zers. Gen-Xers and Boomer’s text often too.

Why is texting so significant? We’ve listed several examples below:

  1. Update customers in real-time.
  2. Send vehicle images such as a completed repair.
  3. Leaves an audit trail so customers can recall what was sent in the text.
  4. It’s a straightforward and easy form of communication.
  5. Reduces the need to hire a team of call center agents to field incoming calls.

User-Friendly Automotive Ecommerce Sites

The Internet has been mainstream for at least two decades now. Website design has also come a long way. As such, it’s crucial to have a reliable, secure, and user-friendly eCommerce site designed to improve the car shopping experience. Invariably, prospects will judge your dealership by your eCommerce site. Consider the following essential attributes:

  • Professional layout
  • Modern design
  • Eye-catching visuals and high-resolution images
  • Fast loading times
  • Search feature
  • Simple navigation
  • The secure and straightforward checkout process
  • VIN decoder
  • Multiple payment options
  • Updated parts and services catalog

All-Encompassing Ecommerce Experience

When online shopping was still novel, many car prospects would look at car images and prices online but then travel to the physical dealership to make a purchase. They would also have to go to the physical car dealership to get parts and service.

On the other hand, you could create an all-in-one eCommerce site to give the entire dealership experience online.

Shoppers today can have anything delivered from groceries to clothing to medicines in a matter of a few hours or days. They’re now used to this way of shopping and expect the same from car dealerships.

If you want to upsell, some promotions to offer customers, include:

  • Free or discounted oil changes with a minimum purchase.
  • Free car washes with a newsletter subscription.
  • 10% off coupon for their first purchase

Think of promotions as a tactic to achieve greater customer engagement and loyalty. When they know they are rewarded for their purchases, they are more likely to return.

Mobile-First Shopping

Undoubtedly, shopping from mobile devices is skyrocketing. With 5G speeds, customers can see and shop for anything they want using their handy mobile devices. Google search engine also now favors mobile-friendly sites with their algorithm.

Thus, customers can browse and shop for cars while they’re on the go. In fact, a UPS and comScore study found that 52% of car shoppers bought parts or accessories from their mobile devices.

Say a customer was tooling around with their car and realized that they needed to replace apart. Instead of walking inside to their laptop, they can just pick up their mobile device and place an order on the spot. If you wait on creating a mobile-friendly eCommerce site, you’re missing out on sales. Customers want to tap and buy.

Informative Online Content

Many shoppers want to do their own research first. Most people have become expert Internet sleuths. As a result, it’s vital to provide relevant content such as how-to guides, car comparison guides, and more. If you can increase your informative content, then you can become an industry leader rather quickly. Having informative content also helps to increase customer trust and engagement. Customers know that when they have a question, your eCommerce site has the answer, and they don’t have to call customer service either.

Social Good

Modern shoppers care about more than just the bottom line. They want to buy from companies that are doing good things in the community. Some examples might be providing a recycling system or collecting used oil. Moreover, even using recycled products in your showrooms helps. Another example is to sell electric and hybrid cars.

It’s all about showing that your dealership is doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint. Customers want to see “green” business strategies that prioritize the environment. As such, modern car buyers will be more willing to spend their money with your dealership.

Car Vending

If you have seen a Carvana commercial, then you have viewed their multiple-story buildings that house various cars and avoid dealing with car salespeople. It’s a vending machine for cars. Increasingly, customers are opting for the self-service buying experience.

They want shopping to be simple, straightforward, safe, and most of all, fast and convenient.

What’s more convenient than picking up a car out of a vending machine?  Gen Z and Millennial shoppers don’t enjoy sales people who push “hard sales.”

If not a car vending option, think of ways to make car shopping more appealing to shoppers who grew up with laptops and mobile devices. Instead of focusing on the sale, prioritize the overall vehicle shopping experience. Personalization and responsive communication are essential.

3D Printing

Another automotive eCommerce industry trend in 2021 is 3D printing. When supply chains are tight, 3D printing can save the day by making parts that are less costly and faster to replicate. Customers don’t want to wait weeks or months for a car part or accessory to arrive. If they are told as much, they are likely to head over to your nearest competitor to see if they can get parts faster.

On the other hand, if you had a 3D printer for multiple parts, you could provide what customers want in an instant and also not have to worry about space for inventory. It’s a win-win for all sides.

Automotive Shopping’s Digital Journey on Overdrive

While it’s difficult to predict what the future holds, you can already see the trends in mobile-first online shopping. The entire automotive industry is making the transition to digitization, so staying ahead of the curve is how you remain competitive in the long run.

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