Ready for Online Car Buying?

Digital Retail
“You have to do business differently if you want to succeed. If you want to rely on the traditional model, you might sell some cars and you may make some may even succeed with the traditional model. But I promise you, there will come a day when someone is going to be eating your lunch” - Lawson Owen, Managing Partner


The number of online shoppers isn’t just growing, it’s exploding. According to, the number of Americans buying products and services online has grown from 209.6 million and will be more than 230.5 million people by the end of 2021. 

We already knew auto shoppers were turning to the internet first for gathering information, locating dealers, and comparing car prices and specs. If you didn’t believe that before, you’ve no doubt crawled out from under the rock you were living in.  Before the pandemic, online car shopping saw 17+ hours of research. Imagine what that number is today. With the state lock-downs from the global pandemic, those numbers are sure to be higher, as even those who never purchased online before will find a way out of necessity. 

In his 4-hour digital retailing virtual class, Lawson Owen emphasizes the importance of change: 

“We have to understand the paradigm shift not only from the customer’s perspective, but the need and necessity from the business owner’s perspective that also have to go through a paradigm shift.”


There is no doubt that the automotive retail industry was already moving toward digital retailing. We’ve known it was coming, with some auto retailers aggressively embracing the new modern way of retailing, while others were simply dipping a toe into new website tools for comparing cars or running credit checks. The pandemic has altered the trajectory of the growth of modern retailing. 

“And I can’t emphasize enough, modern retailing is all about the culture. We have to create a different type of culture than we’ve traditionally had. I, as a dealer or general manager or general sales manager, have to be willing to operate with a higher level of transparency as well as a higher level of trust and confidence in my people. That trust and confidence will only come through greater or further understanding but also through training.”

Think about Apple, Amazon, Grubhub even. People don’t buy Apples because they’re a cheap computer. People buy Apple because of the service they get, the customer experience, the part of being in a community. Look at - basically started out as an online shoe buying company. They quickly became known for their customer experience...and we’ve all heard the stories about Zappos. Bottom line is there has been millions of dollars spent to create an online buying experience that has led to an online expectation, and consumers have moved there hard and fast. 


Truly understanding what consumers want, where they are in the buying process, and how to assist them when they have made a decision to buy requires training. We’re all consumers. How businesses make us feel and the ease in which it is to do business with them will always determine our level of participation. 

It’s not all about the price any longer. Yet one of the biggest challenges to the online car buying experience is price transparency. How do we get our own people to, first, understand price transparency and, second, stop focusing on price? 

“If all you do is talk about numbers, what do you think the customer is going to focus on? The numbers! If you want them to focus on something else, you need to be talking about something else. How is this going to be a better experience for them? Stop slapping them in the face, go along with them, and help them get there at a quicker pace.”

This is what we refer to as a “Serve Not Sell” mentality, which we will touch on in our next blog. But please understand, price transparency is not about one price or the lowest price. It’s about the true price. When I’m online comparing car prices and comparing car specs, what I see online needs to be available. Price transparency is not “bait and switch”. 

Click here to register for the next virtual workshop: The Roadmap to Reopening with Digital Retail

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