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How Digital Retailing Is Changing The Way We Shop for Cars

Most of us are so used to online shopping we can’t imagine not scrolling, clicking boxes and updating a virtual shopping cart when gearing up for back-to-school or stocking our pantries. Why should shopping for a car be any different?

More and more, car buying is starting to look like the kind of online buying and shopping you already do for almost everything else in life. Car buying is now a lot more clicks and choices and a lot less hassle. Plunking down dollars on a new car should be an efficient, engaging experience that doesn’t start with a trip to the showroom. The general term for this brave new buying process is "digital retailing."

In short, digital retailing means shop, finance and buy in a completely virtual environment. However, there are variations on this theme since some buyers (especially car buyers) will still want to sit in the seat, smell the leather and test drive that prospective new ride.

How It Works

Like a lot of purchases, the path to buying a car starts online. Shoppers check out dealership or third-party websites to find the best prices, available colors, options, etc. Folks want to do as much research as possible ahead of time so they don’t have to spend as much time wandering around a dealership or filling out paperwork. Digital retailing is a digitally enabled sales process that allows consumers to complete nearly every step of the buying process online — signing up and downloading the app, getting a loan, picking a car and collecting the vehicle at a dealership or at home (think Amazon Prime, but for cars) are all possibilities.

A series of web-based, interactive methods drives the process: With a payment tool, shoppers begin by inputting how much they want to spend. A finance feature instantly lets shoppers know if they prequalify for credit (or they can apply for a loan securely). Then, folks have the option to reserve their chosen vehicle and may even put down a deposit and secure a protection plan. Shoppers interested in trading in an old car have that option, too.

On Autotrader, cars listed with an “Accelerate” logo are eligible. The ultimate goal is to get you into the car you want quicker and with less time spent doing paperwork at a dealership. You’ll still have to sign the papers in person but, for the most part, you get to do the hard work at home and save the fun stuff for your trip to your local dealer.

If a shopper decides to take a breather from the shopping experience, never fear: The choices can be saved, so anyone still on the fence about a certain make or model can always make changes later. It’s a safe, seamless process that will make buying a car simpler and more user-friendly.

Raring to Go

Care by Volvo Opens a New Window. gives drivers the option of a fixed monthly payment in return for a new car every 24 months. Porsche Passport does something very similar with Porsche vehicles.  However, the digital retailing component will eventually apply to every type of car shopper/buyer, regardless of ownership experience.

Evolving technology is speeding the industry-wide switch to digital retailing. Dealer.com, another arm of Cox Automotive, just revealed a big leap forward in its on-going development of the complete digital storefront by updating its Vehicle Detail Pages (VDP). These are the information pages for each listed vehicle. With the updated version, the consumers can now take a 360-degree tour of the vehicle. The new VDP will also consolodate a visible detailed inventory, specifications, options, packages and vehicle reviews in a single location. Financing solutions, trade-in details and payment calculation information will also be offered. A text-to-phone function will allow shoppers to send listings from their desktop to their mobile devices.

Shopping online has transformed the way we buy what we need. Digital retailing will revolutionize how we shop for the cars of our dreams

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original content

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