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COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Retailing. Are Dealers Moving Closer to Permanent Adoption in the ‘New Normal’?

In other words, did COVID accelerate digital retailing (DR) closer to its potential? A new report about the pandemic’s impact on dealership sales and operations shows mostly positive results – and a definite way forward that will shape the dealership of the future. Based on a survey of auto dealers fielded by eLEND Solutions in the fourth quarter of 2020, the report shows how the pandemic has influenced automotive retail – and examines the shift in dealer attitudes about technology. The report due to be released next week, reveals a clear pattern of practice and perception: the vast majority of auto dealers said the pandemic had accelerated their adoption of digital retailing buying experiences, yet nearly half said digital retailing was still all about lead generation. It seems the idea of making dealer websites more transactional by leveraging digital retailing tools to generate more deals, not leads, will take more time and continued innovation around the right tools and processes.

A Year of Extraordinary Challenge – and Change
The survey found that 2020 was a remarkable year of resilience and accelerated change for dealerships – one that seems to have strengthened the value of the business model by moving it toward digital acceptance and application. Simply put, without the driving force of the pandemic, getting over half of auto dealers to view digital retailing as ‘deal’ versus ‘lead’ would likely have taken many more years. As such, the pandemic brought about a shift in the way dealers viewed their website: dealers generally said that they were more transactional than pre-pandemic. Ultimately, selling vehicles is a bottom line business – and the 2020 survey showed that for the majority of responding dealers, DR initiated deals had a positive or at worst, neutral impact on profit-per-vehicle-retailed (PVR).

Dealerships Adopting Digital Retailing and COVID-19
When the pandemic hit, most dealerships scaled back, but stayed open and pivoted to appointments and remote deliveries. The survey reveals where dealers are almost a year later and the extent to which they have embraced change. The survey also takes a look at how digital retailing impacted CSI, transaction times – and what was reported as the most challenging part of digital retailing adoption.

Check back on February 8th for the first release of the report, The Pandemic Drove a Great Leap Forward in Digital Retailing Adoption, and in the months to come as we release more findings.

Author: Pete Maclnnis

Author Bio: Pete brings over 37 years of experience in automotive finance and technology as Founder and CEO of eLEND Solutions.  Founded in 2003 as DealerCentric, eLEND Solutions is an automotive FinTech company specializing in online and in-store digital credit, identity and finance solutions designed to create a more efficient and profitable vehicle purchase process for the retail automotive industry. 

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