A recent entry in Digital Dealer Weekly highlights the increasing importance of the Internet to car sales. DDW refers to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece, which points to data that almost 90 percent of consumers turn to the Internet as a research tool for car purchasing. In addition, 30 percent complete a car sales transaction online.
That 30 percent figure is staggering, and must include secondary car sales on eBay Motors and AutoTrader. Nonetheless, it’s a sign of the times – and an indicator of what is to come on the repair and service side.
The Post-Gazette also quotes a senior editor at Edmunds.com, who has observed that, “People think they can click a button and a vehicle magically appears in their driveway, and that’s just not the case.” What we are seeing is the influence of other retailing practices on consumer expectations of the automotive services sector. These days, we book every airline ticket online, order food online regularly (and can often track the delivery status), arrange for document shipping and printing online (along with tracking ability), and so on. Most of these can be done on our smartphones, as well. The advent of wireless Internet on airplanes is the latest example of consumers becoming accustomed to convenience in their service experiences.
We’ve reached a point where incorporating Web-based applications into customer service and retailing is not just a positive ROI move for businesses, but rather a necessity in order to satisfy consumer expectations. A business not offering electronic invoices or online payment options is increasingly like not having a web site or an e-mail contact.