Dealers still stop short of full digital retailing implementation

Dealers still stop short of full digital retailing implementation

IRVINE, Calif. – The title of a new report from eLEND Solutions included a question likely being pondered by dealerships and finance companies, “In the Post-Pandemic New Normal, Where Does Digital Retailing End?”

The automotive fintech innovator highlighted that digital retailing capabilities continue to march forward for 84% of auto dealers, but that end-to-end DR adoption is stopping short of full implementation for the majority.

Based on a survey fielded by eLEND Solutions among dealers in the third quarter of 2021, the study revealed positive progress in adoption of digital retailing by U.S. dealers, as well as ongoing challenges as the industry moves into the new post-pandemic normal. 

graph showing percent of dealers embracing digital retailing

While COVID-19 related lockdowns and restrictions forced dealers to offer remote and contactless buying experiences, the report indicated that today, most dealers are choosing to continue to reinvent how they sell vehicles and improve their digital-path-to purchase experiences.

In fact, 80% of survey respondents report that, past the height of the pandemic, more than 20% of their sales were DR-initiated and 30% said that DR-initiated deals represented at least 50% of their sales.  

According to the study, higher reported PVRs, customer satisfaction scores and improved transaction times for DR-initiated sales, versus 2020, are no doubt helping fuel the prediction of the majority that at least 20% of all vehicle transactions will be completed partially, or fully, online by 2025.

But eLEND Solutions also found that most dealers are not yet ready to embrace the full digitization of the sales transaction.

Despite the fact that many dealers allow customers to perform the initial car purchasing steps remotely, the study showed there is a significant drop off in offered digital capabilities as the buyer moves closer to the deal, such as digital F&I. 

Furthermore, 23% of study participants stop their digital path short at a qualified deal structure and another 24% end the customer’s digital journey at the very first pencil.

“Dealers remain hesitant to move F&I online, a major speed bump in the realization of ‘transactional’ digital retailing,” said Pete MacInnis, chief executive officer of eLEND Solutions.

“Many of the survey results are positive for the advance of digital retailing, with clear indications that, as the pandemic recedes, the DR genie is not going back in the bottle. But, pushing the digital process forward into true eCommerce is still an uphill battle,” MacInnis continued in a news release.

MacInnis explained that people, technology and process challenges continue to plague the advancement of digital retailing, along with a small, but significant, hardcore of dealers who reject digital retailing capabilities altogether.

The study showed approximately one third of responding dealers report not offering customers some of the most basic buying conveniences online, and nearly one-third disagree that offering digital path-to-purchase capabilities for customers is critical to their retail success.  

“In spite of the challenges and resisters, as this report reveals, the majority of dealers are realizing the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing,” MacInnis said.

 “Slowly but surely, dealers are accepting that now is the time to embrace the inevitable evolution to an increasingly digital and customer-centric sales experience — one that will, and must, include advancing much further down the digital path-to-purchase,” he went on to say.

graph showing steps of car buying completed online

Other key highlights from the eLEND Solutions digital retailing survey of dealers included:

• 84% are embracing digital capabilities: either adding to (40%) or maintaining/finalized (32%) DR capabilities/tools offered during pandemic– or are starting out, currently adding DR capabilities after choosing not to offer any during the pandemic (12%).   

• 16% are pulling back or never added DR capabilities.

• Two-thirds are allowing their customers to complete many steps of the car buying process online, but the majority still require a dealership visit.

• 46% moved their DR ‘end point’ further down funnel since COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions eased.

• Over one-third report that their relative finish (end point of digital transaction process) runs through F&I.

• 17% of dealers conclude their digital path with a fundable, transactable deal structure; 23% finish at a ‘qualified’ deal structure; and 24% finish their digital path-to-purchase experience at the very first pencil. Only 9% continue the digital journey through vehicle pick-up/delivery.

• DR implementation challenges are People (37%), i.e., lack of leadership, resistance to change, staffing mismatches, recruitment issues; Technology (27%), and non-people related Process changes (25%), specifically re-engineering operations and workflows. 

• 74% reported improved DR-initiated transaction times vs 2020.

• 35% reported higher CSI for DR-initiated transactions vs 2020.

• 41% reported higher PVR for DR-initiated transactions vs 2020.

• 53% view DR as the start of the deal, 47% see DR as lead gen. 

• Two-thirds agree that ‘offering digital path-to-purchase capabilities for customers is critical to their retail success.’  

• Nearly 80% report that, past the height of the pandemic, DR-initiated transactions represented over 20% of their total retailed units, with 30% saying that DR-initiated deals represented at least 50% of their sales.

• 57% believe that at least 20% of all vehicle transactions will be completed partially or fully online by 2025, with nearly a third saying over 25% of all transactions will be digital.

To download the full survey report title, “In the Post-Pandemic New Normal, Where Does Digital Retailing End?” go to this website.

About eLEND Solutions

eLEND SolutionsTM (DealerCentric rebranded) is an automotive FinTech company focused on providing a simplified vehicle purchase process for the retail automotive industry. The platform specializes in online and in-store digital credit, identity and finance solutions – enabling a more efficient, faster moving sales and finance workflow that sells more cars at higher profits in less time – benefiting dealers, lenders and consumers. For more information, please visit

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