How Automotive Digital Retail Works

Many businesses took a pounding in 2020 and 2021, and the automotive industry was clearly one of them. At the start of 2020, everything was going well and car sales were healthy. One report from Fortunly shows that 1,144,279 new cars were sold in January 2020, but then the dip came.

Now though, sales are back to a good position for dealers, and yet, this may not be reflected in the dealerships’ profits.

One thing that was very noticeable during the pandemic was that businesses that had embraced online retail were the ones that survived the best. Ecommerce allowed different areas of retail to not only keep trading but in some instances to even grow.

Traditionally, cars have been sold through classified ads and through dealerships. Although many cars have been sold on sites such as eBay, the digital automotive retail industry is yet to be fully embraced by the consumer, or the dealers.

What exactly is automotive digital retail?

Simply put, automotive digital retail is just another branch of ecommerce. One of the major differences is that buying a car is a far more expensive purchase than ordering some DVDs from Amazon.

However, the experience will be roughly similar. You cut out the need to visit a brick-and-mortar establishment, and the vendor provides technical information along with videos and photos of their cars online. You, therefore, carry out your research and viewing on a mobile device or laptop, and then make the purchase through the dealer’s portal.

This cuts out travel time, the need to speak to a salesperson, or lost time spent in the dealers asking questions or having someone try to upsell to you.

What if you want to speak to a genuine salesperson?

Of course, there will be a majority of people that would like to have human interaction as part of the sales process. Even if this is just to get questions answered.

If you are acquainted with eCommerce, or you carry out your banking online, then at some point you may have seen a chat window pop up. These are often manned by chatbots, however, many in the automotive digital retail market are realizing the practicalities of having live chat on their website.

On the Visitor Chat website, it explains that genuine chat operators experienced in the automotive industry can interact with consumers in this way. Live chat allows a dealer to sell cars online, while still providing the customer service that consumers expect.

This takes away the feel of a fully automated service and gives something of a hybrid sales process. It is ecommerce but with a human touch and instant communication.

How does automotive digital retail work?

Buying a car this way works very much as it would in a real-world setting. The chat operator can provide support and sales advice as much as an employee would in the dealership.

The chat operator can be of two different types. One is an outsourced chat operator who can provide insightful answers any time of the day, and the other will be an employee who is actually working in the dealership.

According to Finances Online, 85% of companies who have live chat on their website use it for sales more than support. However, it can be there for generally improving the customer or user experience.

As for the rest of the sales process, that can all be handled through the dealer’s website with additional support provided through live chat. Test drives can be booked, finances arranged, and the purchase of the car with delivery dates, all done on the net.

Why should dealers be considering taking their business online?

As the pandemic showed, if businesses don’t adopt new technology, and fail to keep up with competitors, they are doomed.

Many huge names in retail failed in 2020 and ’21. For a lot of these, it was because they were somewhat stuck in the past. Dealers need to keep pace with their rivals or face losing ground, and possibly going under in the future.

Selling cars online can be attractive to some buyers too. Those buying a car on a small budget could be enticed by online offers. Dealers selling this way have fewer overheads and could offer internet-only deals.

There are possibilities to upsell cars online too. Credit can be arranged online, and this makes the process more convenient for the dealer, and the buyer.

When a car is purchased, it is not uncommon for credit to be arranged. This can take time in a dealership, and may even be off-putting for the consumer.

For the dealer, there are other advantages to be had.

What benefits do dealers and consumers gain?

The time factor affects both parties. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying a new car, and the lengthy paperwork and applying for credit can take time.

For the dealer and the consumer, there is another advantage. This is the option for more choice and a bigger audience. For the dealer, there is the possibility of reaching an audience that it normally wouldn’t. Their customer base may normally be within a certain radius, but the net allows the dealer to reach out much further afield. Especially useful if the dealership specializes in something such as luxury cars.

The consumer can also look for dealerships that are further away than they want to travel. If the dealer is willing to deliver a car to another city, then they can gain extra customers, and the process is made more convenient for the consumer.


Ecommerce is the way forward for many retail operators now. They have realized that they can’t rely on shopping malls, the high street, or traditional retail units. The same could be said of car dealerships.

The automotive retail market is growing. As customers adapt to purchasing more goods and services online, the dealers need to follow. The process can be relatively simple, but certain areas must not be forgotten. Customer service still needs to be part of the sales process, and live chat can help here. Ignoring customer support and failing to provide knowledge and assistance will lead to a poor UX on any ecommerce site, whether it is a car dealership or not.