Car-Buying Becoming Digital-First, Says Exec

Marketing Daily recently had the chance to interview Andy MacLeay, director of digital marketing at, who believes the car-buying process is moving into a digital-first space, primarily the online-to-in-store process.

Q: How is the car-buying process shifting today?

A: We are seeing a desire for the car shopping process to be more closely aligned with the way people shop for a lot of other consumer goods. So, think about the Amazon experience -- it’s easily searchable, it shows what other products were purchased with that item, keeps items saved for future reference, and provides reminders about product availability. Consumers want a similarly digital, seamless, transparent process with car buying as well. 



Q: How should the shift in the car-buying process affect how automakers are marketing their products? 

A: It’s important for manufacturers to understand that the Tier 3 Web site is becoming much more tactical for them. Their ability to drive traffic directly to where people are conducting their transactions — the Tier 3 Web site — is necessary and critical to the brands’ overall success. And for dealers, the functionality of their dealership’s Web site presents the greatest opportunity for engaging and capturing shoppers. The bottom line is that automakers and dealers need to provide the experience that shoppers want.

Q: What can traditional auto retailers/dealerships do to benefit from this process, or at least stop the hemorrhaging? 

A: Dealers should ask themselves two questions to begin with:

1. How can our dealership reduce the amount of time our customers spend in our store? Can credit applications be submitted in advance? Can a trade-in estimate be secured?

2. Can we make the shopping and buying process easier, faster, and more transparent for our customers? Can we avoid duplicating the input of customer data between our sales, CRM and F&I systems? Can terms of a deal be agreed upon ahead of the in-store meeting?

By starting to explore the opportunities that will surface by answering those questions, auto retailers will find multiple ways to introduce and/or continue to facilitate a seamless, positive experience for both the dealership staff and their customers.  

Q: How does’s Dealertrack Technologies improve the customer's car-shopping experience?

A:  We do this in several ways. It begins by attracting the right shoppers at the right time for the right marketing cost which we do through our advertising products. “I want to spend more time in a car dealership,” said no one ever. The longer a buyer is in the dealership, the more frustrated they become. This is why our digital marketing and digital retailing solutions emphasize efficiency and transparency, and help dealers focus on building brand loyalty with the car buyer over the course of a 60-minute in-store transaction, not four hours.

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