Bold Predictions for Automotive Dealership Technology in 2021 (and what dealers can do about it)

By Ian Cruickshank

If anything dominated 2020 (other than the coronavirus) it was the world’s willingness to adopt new technology. 

Amazon, Shopify, Uber Eats – even Peloton – all hit record highs in new accounts, transaction numbers and revenue. 

What this taught us was that no mere pandemic will stop people from living, shopping, or buying goods. 

So with 2020 firmly behind us and a few vaccines in distribution, which trends for Digital Marketing for Automotive Dealerships will stay, which will go, and which will emerge. 

Here are 4 bold predictions that will affect the automotive dealership industry in 2021.

More and more people will buy cars completely online


Yes, many people will still want to test drive them to see if they like how the car feels to them, but even that is on the decline. 

According to an article from V12 Data, “When asked about newer car buying alternatives, 54% said they would “love” being able to sell or buy a car from home and 42% were fine buying a car without a test drive, as long as there was some form of guarantee.”

And this article was from 2017. 

Earlier in 2020, at Google’s 15th Annual Think Auto virtual event, Google revealed that: “40% of the Millennial population and 29% of the entire population [of Canadian survey respondents] would now consider buying their next vehicles online.”

We have seen dealerships trickle in with their adoption of digital retailing, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people who didn’t use to buy things online are now trying it out, are liking it and now prefer it.

This acceptance was going to happen eventually, but the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of buying everything online – vehicles included. So why fight it?

Dealers must begin the process of enabling digital retailing – if not for the entire transaction, then simply to do financing applications or take deposits. If customers are looking to buy your vehicles, don’t make it hard for them to do so. But, remember, it all starts with the in-store process – not the tech.

More people will be cutting the cord 

Did you know that, at one time, the TV in your living room was used by people to watch shows that WEREN’T on demand? I know right? I mean how did we live such a savage lifestyle?

Much like buying things online whenever we wanted (Thanks, Amazon), Netflix, Youtube, Amazon TV, Crave and a host of other streaming services now allow people to watch TV shows whenever, wherever, and on whichever device they want. 

What does this have to do with your dealership? 

TV advertising is expensive to make, and expensive to run. Now that more and more people are watch shows and videos online, advertising your dealership on services like Youtube is much more cost-effective, measurable, and effective at promoting your dealership.

According to Google, 63% of car shoppers report that they use Youtube as part of their research path when shopping for a vehicle. 

Dealers can take advantage of this shift by using part of their marketing budget to promote their dealership on YouTube or other streaming services like Roku. These services allow for hyper-specific targeting of your audience and it’s an easy step to see that advertising your Ford store on a new Bronco or Mach-E YouTube model review will garner many eyeballs and more recognition of your dealership. 

If you are currently spending dollars on traditional media, it’s time definitely to move those dollars to YouTube.

Google AI will be smarter at digital advertising than you are.

I, for one, welcome our new Google A.I. digital advertising overlords. (…or have they infiltrated my mind too.)

Gone are the days of manually A/B testing keywords, ad text, or targeting methods. Here is the day where you enter all your vehicles into our inventory marketing technology in tandem with Google’s machine and let the machines do their magic.

It’s been shown that time-after-time, that Google’s algorithms work MUCH better at attracting car shoppers than any manually created A/B testing could ever dream of.

This is not to say that there’s no human or creative element in creating taglines, ad copy or descriptions, it’s that dealers no longer need to “tweak” them to get a better result. Now, you can simply add all of the versions of your creative ad copy and let the machines “optimize them” to get the best result possible. 

Dealers can take advantage of this by selecting partners that run digital advertising with high Google Adwords Optimization scores. Graded out of 100, these scores essentially show how well tuned the agency is at using Google’s A.I. Engine to get results. The higher the score the better. 

Product knowledge has never been greater or easier to attain for consumers. 

No, you’re not imagining it, your customers DO know more about the vehicle you’re selling than you do – and really, can you blame them? 

The amount of information at their fingertips is staggering.

A quick search for “which ford bronco to buy” on google shows results from Ford, Car and Driver, Motortrend, Motor authority, CNet, Consumer Reports – the list goes on in Google’s (paltry) 85,000,000 results.

Not just that, but the amount of video reviews, news articles, and images is almost endless.

Now, let’s use this example and sub in “Nissan Armada” or “Mercedes-Benz glc 300 ” or “Kia K5” and you can easily see why this is more than any reasonable dealership sales rep would be able to keep up with. 

With all this information, consumers want to buy, they don’t want to be sold. Dealers will need to embrace this information imbalance and reduce sales friction by giving customers the tools they need to make a decision themselves. 

Tools like online deposits, transparent pricing, and real photos of all inventory. 

Remember, by the time they come to you they’ve done their research and pretty much have already made their decisions on what they want.

There you have it, 4 bold predictions that will shape the Automotive Dealership landscape for 2021. What are yours? 
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me directly at