The car dealer space is an interesting landscape, one that continually evolves to meet consumer behaviour and demands.

Nodifi takes a look at the current climate and discovers techniques that some dealers are applying to find a winning formula.

The changing way consumers are buying cars

Like almost all of the retail world, vehicle purchasing has seen considerable changes over the last few years.

An example is the research phase transitioning to an online research phase as more buyers turn to digital sources rather than window shopping on Saturday mornings.

Back in early 2019, 59% of car buyers conducted research online – today that figure sits at over 90%.

In fact, according to research from, 73% of new car buyers would consider making an entirely online new vehicle purchase, up from 57% in 2017. Interestingly, the number of people who labeled themselves as car enthusiasts rose by 53.8% over the same 4-year period.

According to Nodifi’s National Sales Manager, Alex Bodriagin, buyers these days are armed with a lot more knowledge.

“Typically, a buyer comes to a dealership after commencing their buying journey online, with an understanding of the vehicle’s characteristics and price point. They will have built their own vehicle using the manufacturers online configurators and have selected options and prices ranges.

“Also, they’ll likely be less swayed to other models.”

With over a decade in the auto industry, Mr Bodriagin knows this hasn’t always been the case.

“In the past, most consumers would enter a dealership simply knowing they needed a ‘safe family car’ or ‘something economical’, with the expectation that the dealer would advise on suitable options.

“Today, we’re seeing car buying behaviours in a dealership shift to less emphasis on education and more around choice coupled with a seamless experience. 

“Some want to do a little online and confirm what they’ve learned, while others want to do as much as possible online, leaving only a test drive and sorting vehicle finance.

“If customers start their journey online, they prefer to send that information through to avoid starting again when they walk into a dealership.”

Dealers can align themselves with today’s educated consumer

On the surface, it may seem that dealers have less opportunity to talk to potential buyers in person, however, there’s a silver lining.

Dealers can now spend less time with buyers in person, due to the more educated modern day car buyer. After a simple online enquiry confirming stock availability, a dealer may only need to schedule a time to show a specific vehicle to a pre-arranged buyer.

It’s adapting to the educated buyer to make things faster that sees wins for many dealers.

Here’s a brief explanation of the flow some dealers employ:

  • After viewing high quality images online, a customer books a time to inspect / test drive, usually on the dealer’s website, by entering their details
  • The dealer may contact the customer confirming the inspection time
  • Prior to the appointment, the dealer readies the vehicle and possibly a similar spec’d option as a plan b
  • Keeping up with the excitement, the customer is shown the vehicle as soon as they enter the dealership with a viable plan b if a deal is not struck

The result of the above is that customer excitement is maintained and the process is faster and more to the point than before. 

The buying experience

In line with the move to online resources and the increasing number of car enthusiasts, buyers are looking for that Instagrammable moment when keys change hands.

Some dealers offer experience packages on new and/or high-end vehicles. These experiences can include unveiling from under sheets on the day a customer takes delivery and even props like large bows, flowers and oversized custom signs, even specific food and drink.

Take this example from a recent client, Edward, who reached out to Nodifi after settlement and delivery.

“I bought a 2021 Audi Q5 from a dealer in Melbourne and they offered me an experience pack. Because I needed it transported to Adelaide, I chose to go with the special experience.

“They [Adelaide dealer] held it in Adelaide for a few days because I wanted to pick it up on an auspicious date. When I arrived, the Q5 was under a cloth, one of the staff took photos for us too. There was a bow on the car and they gave us a bottle of champagne and a gift card.”

Edward and his wife were impressed with the experience.

“It made picking up the Q5 something to remember, especially with the photos. I’d probably do it again on a new car.”

Edward also confirmed this was a paid option.

Incorporating unique and social media-friendly experiences like these can offer a number of rewards, such as:

  • Referred business
  • Online exposure
  • Additional USP
  • Additional revenue stream (for high-end experiences)
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Brand equity

Large automakers like Mercedes, Toyota and Ford, among others, have huge brand equity and need no introduction but some high-performing dealers take it a step further.

When customers have a choice of vehicles by trusted manufacturers from an unfamiliar dealer or a well-established dealer, they’ll typically choose the latter. Building brand equity is a continuous process that all dealers can accomplish.

Marketing and great customer service are two key ingredients in succeeding.

Ensure to employ some tactics below in order to build brand equity;

  • With the buyer’s permission, ask if they would allow you to photograph them with their new asset and post in on your social media accounts
  • Post helpful advice on social media such as answer to common questions or solutions that buyers might be looking for
  • Post regularly (4-5 times a week) and use high quality images in correct sizing
  • Offer a referral program such as cash back upon a family/friend’s purchase
  • Ensure all customer facing material (e.g., emails and forms) are high quality and clean
  • Send follow up emails to buyers asking for feedback, reminding them of the referral program and ensuring the vehicle is meeting their needs
  • Consider offering an experience package like the one detailed above or customisable to the client’s desires

At the end of the day, dealers who build their own brand equity without relying too heavily on a manufacturer are more attractive to buyers.

In summary

The excitement customers feel when taking delivery of a vehicle is as old as the auto industry itself, however, the route they travel to get there is always evolving.

If your customers aren’t fitting the mould, adopt a few of the initiatives above and do some research into what kind of buyers are visiting your business and how you’re perceived in the market.

Subscribe to newsletter.

The latest asset finance news and resources.