The Future of the Automotive Consumer Experience: Embrace the Digital Shift Now 

Jul 2, 2024
The Autotrader Team

Hey there, modern-day car dealership virtuosos! Buckle up because we’re about to drive straight into the future of automotive consumer experiences. Spoiler alert: it’s online, it’s data-driven, and it’s going to revolutionize how you capture leads and close deals. 

Gone are the days of the walk-in customer as the sole revenue stream. Today, buyers are making informed decisions faster and smarter by leveraging insights from connected technologies. So, how do you, the savvy car dealer, enhance these experiences and modernize your services? Follow these five key steps to steer toward higher quality leads, increased profits, and serious business growth. Let’s hit the gas! 

1. Build a Strategy to Capture More Leads 

First things first: without a solid strategy, you’re just spinning your wheels. Capture more leads by understanding where your potential buyers are hanging out online. According to Cox Automotive, 57% of car shoppers visited a third-party site without ever stepping foot on an OEM site1. That’s a goldmine of untapped leads! 

Think of sites like Autotrader as your best friend—we reach 29 million unique visitors each month2. With Cox Automotive’s vast treasure trove of first-party shopper data driving nearly twice as many purchases to dealerships than any other third-party listing site, the ROI is undeniable. 

Pro Tip: Use advanced analytics and employ targeted marketing strategies to capture these leads right when they’re ready to buy. No more chasing bad leads and wasting precious time (we’ll get into the math on that soon). 

2. Measuring Quality in a Quantity-Focused World 

Now, let’s talk numbers—specifically, the quality of leads. Quantity is great, but if your leads are as cold as a New England winter, what’s the point? Chasing a few bad leads here and there might not seem like a big deal—until you do the math. Imagine two salespeople working on 200 bad leads per month at 10 minutes per lead. That’s 16 hours wasted per person each month, or 192 hours a year. That’s almost 5 full work weeks gone. 

Instead, use intelligent data to filter leads that matter. Your sales team should be focusing their energy on hot leads that are more likely to convert. 

Fact Check: Did you know that consumers spend an average of 13 hours and 31 minutes researching and shopping for their next car? Make sure you’re visible during every second of that journey to capitalize on their interest. 

3. Connect with Digital Consumers with Powerful Personalization 

Here’s the secret sauce: personalization. In a world where every consumer expects tailored experiences, your generic approach isn’t cutting it anymore. Dive into the data to understand your buyers’ preferences and behaviors. 

Using Tools Like a Pro: Kelley Blue Book® My Wallet helps over 4 million unique shoppers each month find vehicles within their budget and estimated monthly payments2. Leverage this kind of data to offer personalized recommendations that resonate with each unique visitor.2 

Go beyond just using their names in emails. Create personalized video messages, offer tailored financing options, and curate content that speaks directly to their needs. With 90% of dealers reporting that digital retailing has positively impacted at least one area of their business, the case for personalization is crystal clear. 

4. Deliver the Digital Retailing Experience that Drives Shoppers to Purchase 

Alright, let’s get real—digital retailing isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the new norm. Your online presence should be so seamless and engaging that it drives shoppers from browsing to buying without a hitch. 

Think of your website as your digital showroom. It should offer everything a physical dealership does—inspections, trade-in evaluations, financing options—minus the pressure. Make the online buying experience effortless and enjoyable. 

Winning Formula: Third-party sites have shown resilience in the marketplace. Buyers are 57% more likely to visit these sites exclusively, especially for used cars. That’s your cue to optimize your listings and ensure your inventory shines online. 

5. Leverage the Right Experts and Partners to Accelerate Profits 

You’re a pro at selling cars, but you don’t have to go it alone in this digital transformation. Partner with the right experts who can bring their tech-savvy magic to your dealership. By leveraging the expertise of industry leaders and tech partners, you can accelerate your profits and streamline your operations. 

Numbers Game: A 36% higher gross profit per lead compared to the closest competitor2 is nothing to sneeze at. When you team up with the right partners, you’re not just surviving—you’re thriving. 

Closing Thoughts: The Road Ahead 

The future of automotive consumer experiences is undeniably online, and the time to adapt is now. By building a solid lead capture strategy, focusing on lead quality, personalizing your approach, delivering a stellar digital retailing experience, and partnering with the right experts, you’ll be well on your way to unprecedented growth and success. 

So, get ready to buckle up and put the pedal to the metal. The road ahead is paved with endless opportunities for those who dare to embrace the digital shift. Ready to see the difference for yourself? Read: The Difference Better Leads and Higher Profits Can Make for Your Dealership: Experience that moment when you close more leads with 36% more profit. 



  1. Car Buyer Journey Study, Cox Automotive 
  1. Autotrader and Google Analytics January – August 20