Car dealership customers want to buy ‘low effort’

Buying a vehicle is a big deal.

It requires a series of steps, including product selection, pricing agreements, potential exchanges, financing, secondary market considerations, and of course, lots of paperwork.

Yet around a third of consumers surveyed say that what matters most to them is that the car buying process is “low effort”.

That’s according to a survey conducted by automotive retail technology provider CDK Global. Its “Auto Retail Friction Points Report” gathered feedback from dealers and consumers on the multi-faceted process of an automotive transaction.

Dealerships lack express payment lanes. But that doesn’t mean things can’t go easier — and faster — for everyone involved. Low effort is related to this, the report says.

As consumer demand for more streamlined retail experiences grows, so does most dealerships’ desire to evolve beyond traditional sales processes, says Andy Moss, senior vice president of CDK.

According to the report, of the dealers surveyed, 94% rate the way they sell cars.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past two years, it’s that if we want a vehicle to be easy to buy, we have to make it easier to sell,” says Moss.

For CDK, this means using computer systems and software that work together. “Dealer employees are tired of using multiple systems that don’t communicate with each other,” says Moss.

Of the dealerships surveyed, 85% say they are working on solutions, but still see disconnects as consumers move from online to offline for a visit to a dealership to close the deal.

The culprits of these imperfect online/offline pivots are disjointed software applications that fail to properly transfer data seamlessly. This can lead to re-entering information and asking consumers questions that they have already answered. Meanwhile, time is running out.

The main problem cited by 41% of car consumers surveyed is unnecessary waiting at a dealership.

Yet few people today would describe visiting a dealership as “a horrible experience,” says Peter Kahn, senior director of marketing research at CDK, noting that auto retailing has become friendlier than previously.

“The dealership experience has really improved,” Kahn (photo below left) Wards says. “Overall customer satisfaction is good. But if it turns out that the customer waited a long time, satisfaction drops. Waiting has a big impact. That’s why we asked what we could do about it.

Dealers surveyed identified three areas where they see opportunities for improvement:

  • Sales. The main frustrations of the sales department are the need to re-enter information, the lack of system integrations and the lack of time available to coach the sales teams.
  • Internet and Business Development Centers. The time wasted centers on duplicate lead work, lack of autonomy, and waiting for office managers to assemble a deal proposal.
  • FI. Dealers say document retrieval is the biggest area for improvement here.

Integrated systems allow dealerships “to deliver the low-effort transaction that car buyers expect with less of a wait,” says Moss.

Waiting tolerance varies by age group. Millennials, who buy the most vehicles today than any other generation, “are the least patient,” says Kahn. On the other hand, “baby boomers are used to it”.

Interestingly, Gen Z, the newest age group of vehicle buyers, is showing a desire to spend After more time at the dealership than their elders.

Why? “It’s their first car purchase, and they want to take their time to educate themselves,” says Kahn.

The CDK survey was conducted in December in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn’s NADA Academy.

Participants were a national sample of 303 department heads and dealership executives as well as more than 1,000 consumers.

The study notes that dealers and customers differ in the average length of an automotive transaction: dealers reported less than two hours. Customers said over two hours.

In today’s digital world that lets customers do their own shopping and preliminary research online, time spent at the dealership should take an hour or less, Kahn says.

Steve Finlay is a retired editor of Wards. He can be reached at [email protected].