Transformation toward eCommerce in the automotive industry

Shopping patterns are changing in favor of eCommerce, and the automotive industry is no exception. The changes may vary depending on customer preferences, but it is clear that this industry is now at a tipping point toward eCommerce.

Why is this transformation happening? What do customers expect? How should retailers respond to those changes?

These are just some of the questions we will try to answer.

It all starts with customers

During its existence, eCommerce has gone through various stages. From total distrust to complete necessity.

All these changes are caused by customers’ expectations. Why? The answer is simple - customers got accustomed to the speed and ease of online shopping. However, when it came to more expensive purchases such as buying a car, most of the customers preferred to do it in person.

But, huge changes are taking place today. As many as 76% of customers claim to be open to buying cars online!

What’s causing this transformation?

First of all, today’s generations are digitally savvy and as such make up the majority of today’s population. It is completely natural for them to make both larger and smaller purchases online. Moreover, they trust the process and find it very convenient.

Hence, both customers and retailers need to keep up the pace with the transformation.

Where does the automotive industry stand now?

There is one misconception that needs to be clarified at the very beginning. Digital retailing and a fully online eCommerce experience are not the same things. Digital retailing means that a range of capabilities in the customer journey can be performed online. Comparisons, estimated payments, trade-in valuations - just to name a few. However, digital retailing still requires a personal (manual) retailers’ intervention.

A fully online eCommerce experience, on the other hand, provides a fully online end-to-end purchase experience without any manual intervention.

Statistics show that only 13% of all the transactions take place online, and all of them require some kind of sales assistance. It’s obvious the disproportion between the customer expectations and the retailers’ availability to respond to it.

customers_ journey

What does such a change bring to retailers in the automotive industry? It brings many benefits, but the two of them are very clear.

First, their geographic reach can be seriously increased. When a purchase is happening in-store, the geographical limitations are obvious. No one will come from another part of the country to check a car that they might not even buy. Therefore, a mixture of motivated buyers and convenient delivery options can help retailers to step out of their usual radius.

The second benefit is related to profitability. An automated workflow will allow the company to shed costs and improve cash flow which can additionally be invested into expansion.

How to respond to different buying styles?

This can be a tricky question since different people have different expectations.

On one end, you have a car buyer who wants a complete in-store experience, without any digital interventions. On the contrary, there are people who find it more convenient to start, continue, and finalize their purchase completely online, with no human interaction. However, most people are still somewhere in between. Yet, it’s important to note that the shift toward the digital spectrum will continue to grow.

That means a lot of work for retailers. First of all, they need to understand their customers’ preferences, determine where they currently stand in the digital spectrum, and set some plans for the future.

Retailers in the automotive industry - what’s the plan of action?

Every beginning needs to start with a change in the mindset. Embracing the changes can be difficult, especially when your previous model has been showing good results.

But, if the changes are necessary, let’s see where you should start.


If a customer journey starts with an investigation, that means that you need to investigate your competition too. It’s crucial to understand where you stand in comparison to your competitors. Is your offer wider than theirs? Are your delivery options more convenient? And maybe most important, are your prices competitive?

Answering all these questions requires a lot of work. In order to avoid this daunting work of trying to keep up with all the changes manually, you should consider using the help of some of the price monitoring tools. The data you gather will help you have a better understanding of your competitors’ pricing strategies and how to prepare the best possible answer. The automotive industry is very competitive, so make sure not to overlook this step.

Besides developing a good pricing strategy, you’ll have to work on other business aspects as well.

Traditionally, digital marketing plays an important role in creating brand awareness. Your end goal is to drive conversion through the funnel in order to bring transactions. This can be done in-house, or you can hire a marketing agency. Dealing with brand reputation also means that you should pay attention to what’s being said about you online. In other words, you need to keep track of the reviews you get because they are a part of your online reputation management.

Summing it up

eCommerce is constantly changing the way we do business and the automotive industry is no exception. This industry is competitive in itself, and with the opportunities that eCommerce offers, the struggle within it becomes even fiercer. Therefore, make sure you take all the necessary steps to embrace the changes on time.

By improving the customer experience and efficiency, you’ll be able to stay competitive now and in the future.