Digital Transformation of the Automotive industry. Buyers expectations and way forward in 2024

Digital Transformation has already touched every business industry and Automotive is not an exception. Overall this process started a while ago but different factors like COVID-19 spread pushing it with a new force. 

While some in the industry had already laid digital foundations, most of them stopped with a simple online presence (landing pages, etc.) that is not enough in the new circumstances. They are fully vulnerable and can’t adopt technology platforms as part of daily operations. 

Social distancing and overall worldwide sales decreasing because of ecological and finance issues creating new challenges for automotive dealers. Consumers are just holding onto their cars for longer and buying less often.

But how to integrate the new technologies and which ones to pick? What do buyers expect from this experience? Let’s figure it out.

Current situation

Numerous researches show that overall sales and customer satisfaction decrease started years ago and still falling. The reason for that is the time-consuming and sometimes annoying process of meeting with a salesperson, especially if they have no idea about what they want, prices, and what is currently on the market. The typical car buying process is hardly related to paperwork, often banks too so feels exhausting to the customers. 

Today more likely customers will arrive at a dealership armed with data from third-party digital resources so it’s fundamental for dealers to make all info including models availability, prices, and payment methods easy to find.

Buyers are generally dissatisfied with car salespeople, and the process itself. According to the Gallup research, only 8% of responders rated the experience with ‘’high’’ or ‘’very high’’ mark.

But this doesn’t mean the physical dealerships era is coming to an end. Buying a car is still a big move and customers want in-person experience, guidance. They want emotion, engagement. Modern innovations aren’t as self-explanatory as leather seats or a backup camera.

Studies show that around 60% of US clients are at least “interested” in the idea of buying their next vehicle fully online but still see the salesperson and family/friends as a final information source to make a decision.

So wrapping it up both online and in-person approach are interesting for the users but to achieve the smooth and client-focused experience it would be right to combine them.

What do customers expect from the car buying experience in 2024?

Buying a car isn’t something many customers enjoy much. It’s always frustrating to research all the possible options, brands to see which one would be ‘’perfect’’ and don’t forget to pay attention to prices, compare them. So when you come to the dealership the vehicle you picked is not available now and payment methods don’t fit. Overall experience is not what you expected and you already invested the time in it. This happened when the dealership business is not supported by a modern tech solution to make the process painless for users.

So what do consumers expect?

Mostly the painless process – the ability to research the models, prices, availability, and payment methods before coming to the showroom for the tactile experience of physically interacting with a vehicle before buying it.

But these are just basic needs with modern technologies the opportunities are endless. Which can bring experience to another quality level and minimize the paperwork and usual problems.

Factors that influencing the industry?

The new research process 

As we mentioned, customers still value the tactile and emotional experience at the showroom they now prefer to come ‘’fully armed’’.

According to Google, ‘’95% of vehicle buyers use digital as a source of information and it takes 65% of buyers just 3 weeks to research online.’’

So you can say even if the fact of buying is still associated with the dealership the big amount of decision-making clients do beforehand online.

When potential customers start their research, 6 out of 10 are still open to different models’ options and vehicle options. However, by the time they actually make it to a dealership, they often already made some decisions.

At this point, it’s fundamental for automotive dealers to reach and target customers at this undecided stage and win them with the convenience and seamless process. 

Modern technology is changing the customer experience

Video experiences

Adding video content easing up the research for the customers big time and with modern technology, there’s no need to stop with the video only. Now are widely popular and available – virtual test drives, 360-degree views of the interior, or exterior walkarounds. For many clients, this can be enough to make the final decision even without trying the car out in person.

Virtual Reality

There are to the moon and back potential uses for Virtual Reality. It can benefit every industry in some way and automotive is not an exception. Using VR technology and specialized apps, almost every showroom in any dealership can become a VR showroom and also can be used in the comfort of your own home. Already, brands like Audi and BMW are experimenting with similar solutions.

So investing in VR technology is something to consider to give the most of the experience to the users. With a VR demo station, dealers can offer customers immersive test-drives which can enhance the customer experience but also help sell more cars to existing customers and drive more referrals.

Domination of Mobile devices

Now more than half of the potential customers use a mobile device in their research. This clearly shows that working on the online appearance for the brand it’s important to take into account the mobile experience. 

Rising of digital advertising

Don’t underestimate social media and digital advertisement now it’s the number one channel in big marketing campaigns. As it allows easy divide and finds your perfect target audience. 

Using a vast range of integrated marketing tools backed by experimentation and innovation, this gives dealers the ability to attract more customers.

The way to the NEW LEVEL customer experience

Brand development

Customer loyalty is all about the previously built trust and recognition. Now the digital era creates more opportunities to connect with your target audience. Some even say, ‘a brand is only as good as the customer’s last experience with it’. So thoughtful brand experience and client engagement are fundamental.

Cox Automotive made a research about the newly popular concept of strengthening brand engagement – “brand experience centers”. Simply put these are places where people can learn more about the brand, how vehicles are made, learn more about the history, and even look through at the first models without being subjected to a pushy salesperson. Research shows that seven out of 10 consumers find this concept appealing.

So working on brand recognition there are numerous ways to intrigue potential customers. Even if now they’re not actually interested in buying there is a big opportunity that they will come back to you when the time is right.

Automation focus

Automation is a trending topic for a while now. Yet we’re talking not about car automation but the overall company processes. Earlier we talked about how exhausting the car buying process can be for the customer and even more it can be for your employees. New technologies like chatbots, automated CRM systems can boost up and make this a smooth experience for everyone.

The automation approach combined with the quality digital presence solution will allow employees to focus more on what actually matters – customers.

Cutting-edge digital solution

Previously we defined what clients expect from the whole experience.  And even if a company is not ready to sell entirely online quality digital representation is a ‘must’. With easy navigation, online catalog, and full info available. Ideally, you can create a full experience even with the possibility to research and approve the bank loans.

Consider all modern marketing channels

You need to understand what would be the best channels to reach ‘your’ customers and create brand recognition, trust. The industry can’t fight or change global cultural trends. Instead, they must adapt to them. This means strengthening every single brand touchpoint and rolling out innovative services that reflect customers’ changing relationships with cars. 

Interactive Showrooms

Digital transformation presents totally new ways of purchasing cars. It combines the best from both online and offline customer experiences, which is needed to meet the growing expectations.

Now showrooms represent the new lifestyle associated with a new car and make the purchasing process smooth, comfort often becoming completely digital. Depending on how the brand position itself it might be classy, comfort zone enough digitized, or crazy futuristic representing the new technologies. It depends on how you want the customer to see the overall brand and your values.

There are no right or wrong answers to this but the importance of digitalization is undeniable.


Digital transformation has changed all industries and even the cars we drive for good. With the new touch of technology, it’s turned them into personalized digital devices that assist us while we’re on the go. Obviously, the car buying experience can’t stay untouched in these circumstances.

From the whole new digital showrooms to predictive vehicle maintenance, the consumer demands increase each and forces manufacturers, dealers to adapt and embrace the transformation.

You can even say digital now more of a necessity than a choice, automotive brands and dealerships must commit to introducing and integrating digital technologies and strategies into their business.