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Shifting Gears in Powersports Shopping Traditional Dealerships vs. Online Platforms

Shifting Gears in Powersports Shopping Traditional Dealerships vs. Online Platforms

Tristin Burdick | June 19, 2023

The rise of e-commerce has significantly transformed the way we shop, and the powersports industry is not immune to this change. This shift, driven by the ubiquity of digital devices and the convenience of purchasing at your own pace, has brought new dynamics to the powersports vehicle market. While brick-and-mortar dealerships remain the preferred choice for most, an increasing number of consumers are starting to embrace the option of buying online. As we see these new shopping behaviors emerging, it's critical to take a closer look at this trend, understand its implications, and consider its potential influence on the future of the industry. With that being said, let’s take a dive into the specifics of these evolving consumer preferences.

Primary Sources of Powersports Vehicle Purchases

Despite the growing prominence of digital avenues, a survey we recently conducted reveals that dealerships remain the reigning champions in the arena of powersports vehicle sales. Traditional, face-to-face transactions still dominate, affirming the value consumers place on in-person interactions and firsthand examination of potential purchases. Meanwhile, purchases from private sellers and online platforms trail behind, with a minor yet notable 6% of consumers making their purchase exclusively online, primarily via dealership websites. These insights portray an interesting blend of traditional and digital shopping behaviors in the powersports industry. As we venture deeper into the online aspect, let's take a closer look at the online purchasing experience, its appeal to consumers, and their satisfaction levels with this novel approach.

The Online Purchasing Experience

The world of online powersports vehicle shopping, while still nascent, presents an intriguing landscape. Of the 6% of consumers who have chosen to purchase solely online, the majority ordered from dealership websites and picked up their vehicles in person. This indicates a hybrid model where digital convenience and physical interaction coexist. The primary reasons for choosing online? A fusion of convenience, competitive pricing, freedom from sales pressure, and access to specific vehicle models. Further sweetening the online experience, a whopping 87% of online-only shoppers found their expectations met, with the vehicle matching the online description. As we explore this digital frontier, it begs the question: How does online purchasing stack up against the time-honored in-person buying experience? Let's compare.

Comparisons of Online and In-Person Purchasing

The survey shines a light on the different consumer perspectives of buying online and in-person purchasing. A significant 44% of online buyers assert that digital purchasing provides a superior experience, elevating convenience, and erasing geographical boundaries. However, this enthusiasm doesn't necessarily translate into a commitment for future online purchases. Only a fraction, 17%, show a strong inclination to purchase their next powersports vehicle online, indicating some level of reservation. This suggests that while online shopping offers a compelling proposition, some key aspects of in-person buying continue to hold sway over consumers. Let's dig deeper into these barriers that are keeping the majority from embracing online vehicle purchases.

Barriers to Online Purchasing

While online shopping offers undeniable convenience, some unique aspects of in-person buying appear to be non-negotiable for many consumers. Crucial factors such as the ability to physically inspect and test-ride the vehicle, engage in face-to-face negotiation, and mitigate concerns about the condition upon delivery play a significant role. Additionally, the human touch in the form of interpersonal experiences at the dealership still holds significant value. In our next section, we'll consider the potential for change as we explore whether these consumers might be willing to shift to online purchasing in the future.

Perspectives on Online Shopping and Future Considerations

Even though the transition to online vehicle shopping is still emerging, consumers in the powersports sector are not strangers to the realm of online shopping. Indeed, 67% of consumers are accustomed to shopping online for items like clothing, electronics, and books. This comfort with e-commerce suggests a potential readiness to extend online shopping to more significant investments like powersports vehicles. Indeed, a considerable 58% of those who haven't yet ventured into online vehicle shopping express openness to doing so in the future.

Yet, despite this interest, consumers still prioritize certain factors that are inherently linked to in-person shopping. Interacting with the seller, test-riding the vehicle before purchase, and seeing the vehicle in person are all components of the buying process that consumers value greatly. This indicates that even as online shopping becomes more commonplace, a hybrid model combining digital convenience with traditional in-person experiences might be the most appealing to consumers.

As we move forward, it's also important to explore what consumers envision for the future of purchasing in the powersports industry, and how stakeholders might need to adapt to meet these expectations. Let's turn our attention to these future considerations in our next section.

Consumer Predictions for the Future of Powersports Purchasing

As we delve into the future of powersports purchasing, it's clear that consumers envision a balance. Nearly half, 49%, predict that a blend of online and in-person buying will characterize future transactions, a testament to the value of both convenience and personal touch in the purchasing journey.

Nonetheless, a sizable 38% of consumers foresee the primary mode remaining largely unchanged from today, with traditional dealerships continuing to hold sway. The allure of in-person viewing and testing, the security of service and warranty options, and the appeal of personal interaction all contribute to this enduring preference for the dealership experience. This insight underlines the importance of maintaining and even enhancing these traditional aspects, even as the industry evolves. Next, we turn our focus to what these findings mean for industry stakeholders.

Recommendations for Stakeholders

Navigating the transition between traditional and digital shopping can be challenging for stakeholders in the powersports industry, and understanding consumer behavior is key to this process. Firstly, stakeholders should recognize the ongoing importance of the dealership experience. Enhancing this through excellent customer service, maintaining a diverse range of models for inspection and test drives, and offering comprehensive warranties can help keep their in-person service attractive.

Yet, it's equally important to develop a robust online presence. Given that 6% of consumers are already buying online, and many more are open to the idea, optimizing online platforms for easy navigation, comprehensive vehicle information, and seamless purchase processes is crucial.

Furthermore, with half of online purchases driven by the convenience of shopping from home, it's evident that an easy-to-use, efficient website is not just an accessory, but a necessity. Competitive pricing and an extensive vehicle range can make online platforms more appealing. But stakeholders should also consider online mechanisms to address some of the concerns that keep customers loyal to in-person purchases, such as interactive virtual tours, 360-degree product images, and online customer service chatbots to mimic in-person interactions.

Lastly, remember that the future of powersports purchasing, according to consumers, is likely to be a blend of online and in-person experiences. Stakeholders should aim to bridge the gap between these two modes, providing a seamless transition for consumers. An approach that integrates the convenience of online browsing with opportunities for in-person interaction, like online reservations for in-store test drives or consultations, may be the sweet spot the industry needs to hit.

about the author

Tristin Burdick

Research Analyst, EPG Specialty Information

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