The Importance of Online Tools in Modern Vehicle Retail

The vehicle retail landscape is undergoing a digital transformation quicker than most people expect, with a significant shift towards online purchasing reshaping the industry.

Based on recent research conducted among 1000 used vehicle buyers, this blog sheds light on the pivotal role of online tools in meeting evolving buyer preferences and  opportunities for retailers to drive success. 

Understanding the Shift:

Our latest research unveils a striking revelation: there has been a remarkable 27% surge in online purchasing appetite since 2018, with 74% of respondents indicating their intention to buy their next vehicle online. While physical showrooms remain crucial, it's evident that retailers must adapt to accommodate the digital preferences of buyers.

The Importance of Online Tools:

Online tools are crucial for facilitating the vehicle buying process, significantly enhancing the overall experience of the buyer, according to our findings.

Vehicle search was the most useful online tool for buyers, whilst having finance options on the retailers website was rated as the most impressive, followed closely by part-exchange and reservations:

  • Vehicle Search: While vehicle search is essential, challenges may arise for buyers with specific needs, such as discrepancies between desired criteria and search results.
  • Finance Options: Our survey highlights the importance of online finance tools, with 47% of respondents expressing a desire for online vehicle finance from retailers. Positioning finance tools prominently on the website can help buyers find the best fit for their budget. Those buyers who can't find the tool on the website often leave and look elsewhere. 
  • Part-Exchange and Reservations: Despite the clear demand for including part exchange in the digital process, our research indicates that less than half of consumers who attempted to value their part exchange online succeeded. Reservations, on the other hand, are an essential step for many online buyers and should be optimised for a seamless experience.

Ensuring the effectiveness of all online tools is crucial, as any shortcomings in accessibility or user-friendliness can lead to missed sales opportunities.

Challenges and Opportunities:

The ability to search for more complex terms, the accessibility, and visibility of online valuation tools, and the ability to part-exchange remain challenging, potentially leading to missed sales opportunities. However, with these challenges comes a real opportunity for retailers to embrace technology and set themselves apart from others who may be missing these elements. Retailers must refine these tools to ensure user-friendliness and accessibility, thereby enhancing consumer satisfaction and driving sales.


"This is an area where there is clear potential for retailers, ensuring they have the tools in place online that consumers expect as part of their consumer journey.

The key touchpoints here are vehicle search, vehicle finance, part exchange and reservations. While there are problems around search – look at the experience of Sammy Bradley in the interview on this page – it is perhaps part exchange where there is the biggest ground to be made up.

The research shows that this is a dead end for many car buyers when it comes to their online journey, which is unnecessary because effective solutions are being used by many retailers. When more sales move online, the issue of providing part exchange facilities online will become ever harder to ignore".

Richard Tavernor, COO


Effectively leveraging online tools is paramount for vehicle retailers to thrive in the digital car sales landscape. By understanding consumer preferences and enhancing the online experience, retailers can differentiate themselves from the competition, satisfy consumers, and ultimately increase sales and drive loyalty for future purchases.

To unlock the full potential of your online tools and gain actionable insights and best practices, download our latest white paper now. Alternatively, book a demo with us, and let's chat through the solutions that can effectively meet the needs and expectations of the modern buyer.

Download Now! Driving Future Success: Five Key Trends in Online Vehicle Retail