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Automotive digital transformation

Tools for modern car dealerships
Tuesday 27th June 2023
In this article, we explore some of the key trends and technologies driving digital transformation in the automotive industry and examine their impact on its future.
Introduction. Embracing digital transformation in the automotive industry

In order to stay competitive on today’s market, the automotive industry is embracing digital transformation. Customers are demanding an increasingly personalised experience and the importance of online services is constantly growing. In response, vehicle manufacturers and dealerships are turning to digital tools to streamline their operations, enhance their customers’ journey and gain a competitive advantage.

Businesses are adopting innovative technologies such as advanced online sales platforms, virtual test drives and payment simulators with a view to upping their game and building modern automotive solutions. In a nutshell, then, digital transformation is an essential step for automotive manufacturers determined to thrive in a dynamic industry.

The impact of the pandemic on vehicle sales and dealerships

One result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing social distancing measures is that the vehicle purchasing process has become enormously challenging. In effect, it has undergone a significant transformation, with the majority of activities shifting online, including searching for deals, communicating with dealers and finalising purchases. Some brands in the sector have even added direct delivery to the customer’s home as a standard service offering.

One thing is certain. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technology for the industry’s sales processes. This, in turn, is driving the need for innovative, business- and user-friendly online solutions.

The shift towards online models and the future of vehicle sales

Buying a car is much more significant than buying a book, a fact which has led many people to believe that transferring the process to the online world is not only nearly impossible, but also unnecessary. However, this view has been challenged in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrating that a shift to the online realm was no longer an option, but a necessity. This change in approach was dictated by new business models which needed to be adapted in order for numerous companies to continue developing.

The traditional approach to buying a car created a lengthy customer journey, including numerous online interactions and multiple visits to showrooms. Moving the entire process online is a game-changer because, in transforming the approach to the search phase, it brings customers much closer than ever before to finalising their purchase.

Automotive digital transformation

With car retailing undergoing a revolution, time has become an economic value that benefits buyer and seller alike. If a business is to meet the needs of the market, it must focus on investing in digital transformation and operating swiftly online.

Efficiency is rooted in a better experience for customers, who should feel as if they have a sales consultant by their side, providing answers to their questions and offering good advice as they go about choosing a car. Ideal customer service must be highly personalised, user-friendly and responsive and it needs to include a comprehensive resource of essential information such as prices for specific models, costs of additional features and up-selling options.

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Sell cars successfully online with innovative tools by MakoLab

A study conducted by service partnership Ernst & Young (EY) has revealed that, on average, a customer will now visit a car showroom a mere 1.7 times before deciding on their purchase. This is the result of their advance preparation for their purchase. They explore a range of sources and, by the time they arrive at a showroom, they know exactly what kind of car and model they want and they are already familiar with the relevant parameters and test results.

The car showroom is now simply the place to see the car, take it for a test drive and negotiate the price at the end of the purchasing process. This begs a question. Why not move the final stage online, too? It has already been necessitated in part by the pandemic, meaning that dealers have seen the potential inherent in this type of solution.

With time, this form of purchasing could easily become the norm for customers. At MakoLab, we keep our finger on the pulse and create solutions which make the process of selling a car simple and intuitive. We are committed to helping you inspire your customers to view and purchase cars online. With that thought in mind, it is worth outlining this new model for the car sales process and having a look at the solutions which will ease the transition.

The online car sales process. A step-by-step overview

What follows here is a step-by-step overview of the online car sales process from the dealership perspective.

1. Building a strong online presence
In the digital age we live in, a strong online presence is crucial to a dealership. Achieving this involves creating a user-friendly website that showcases key information, including inventory and prices. It also means leveraging social media platforms and other online channels as a way of reaching out to potential customers and engaging with them.

2. Presentation of the vehicle
Once a dealership’s online presence is established, its inventory has to be listed. When it comes to the used cars market, vehicle condition, quality and credibility is crucial. High-quality images of each vehicle are essential, as are detailed descriptions. The listings should be updated regularly, reflecting changes in inventory and pricing.

MakoLab has designed a superb solution which supports the presentation of vehicles. Our Digital Used Car Certificate is a functionality which we originally created for Renault Poland. It is presented in more detail further on in the article.

3. Responding to enquiries
Online customers will most probably have questions about the vehicles they are interested in. It is essential for dealerships to respond to enquiries and provide accurate information within an appropriate time frame, using chatbots, e-mails or phone calls to engage with customers.

4. Virtual test drives and walkarounds
To give customers a better idea of what they are buying, dealerships can offer virtual test drives and walkarounds created using video and other online tools to showcase the features and capabilities of each vehicle.

A door-to-door service and the possibility of booking an appointment online are two more major conveniences that dealerships can offer their customers.

5. Financing and paperwork
Once a customer decides to purchase a vehicle, the dealership can make online financing options available to them and guide them through the paperwork. This can encompass digital signatures and other online tools which streamline the process and reduce wait times.

6. Delivery
The online sales process can include delivery directly to the customer’s home or another designated location. At this point, dealerships need to ensure that the vehicle is delivered on time and in tip-top condition.

Online showrooms and vehicle customisation

With the rise of online showrooms, people planning to buy a car have shifted from visiting a dealer to the Internet, where they search for information, compare, carry out financial simulations and move towards their careful selection of the car of their dreams.

In addition, a great many online showrooms are now offering advanced customisation options which allow buyers to tailor their vehicles to suit their demands. This includes the selection of specific features, colours and even interior materials.

Virtual test drives and 360o visualisations

Virtual test drives and 360o visualisations are innovative digital tools which are transforming the car-buying experience. They allow customers to scrutinise the vehicles they are interested in more closely and get a feel for them without having to visit a dealership. Virtual test drives provide the opportunity of experiencing the car in a simulated environment, while 360o visualisations offer an interactive, panoramic view of the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

Using these tools not only enhances the customer experience, but also enables dealerships to showcase their inventory more dynamically. Ultimately, this added appeal increases the likelihood of a successful sale.

Seamless financial and payment simulations

Seamless financial and payment simulations are crucial to car dealerships today. They help customers understand the financial aspects of purchasing a car, enabling them to explore different financing options, compare interest rates and calculate monthly payments on the basis of their budget. Providing transparent and accurate payment simulations is a way for dealerships to build trust and credibility with their customers and ensure that they make informed decisions when they are purchasing a car.

In addition, these tools can help to provide a faster, more seamless financing process, reducing the time customers spend waiting in the dealership and improving their overall experience. We have presented a more in-depth look at this topic in another article, Digital transformation and the future of financing in the automotive industry.

MakoLab’s innovative solutions for online car sales

RSI-CMS. A comprehensive website solution

One of the cutting-edge solutions designed by our engineers for the automotive industry is a content management system (CMS) for Renault and Dacia.

Renault operates in more than one hundred and thirty countries and has forty factories. Over fifty per cent of its markets are serviced by MakoLab’s software. The Renault Site International (RSI) and Dacia CMS make it easy for car dealers to set up a localised website and offer a better user experience by providing the local language, special modules like ‘Find a dealer’ and car visualisations. They also feature the capability of integrating with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. Importing the central database is simple, ensuring that customers have access to up-to-date, accurate information.

MakoLab’s CMS tools have been created to help car dealers increase their online presence and drive sales.

Nest. Streamlining online car sales

NEST is a web sales application created by MakoLab for Renault. The platform streamlines the process for preparing quotes and orders for new vehicles, integrates data from multiple sources and uses AWS cloud to provide superior analytics, serving individual customers and companies intending to order a fleet. It brings a CRM application together with Renault and Dacia brand apps, creating a single sales tool and enabling full vehicle configuration, the sale of accessories and services, purchase financing and customised bodywork.

NEST was designed to collect and analyse data which was previously spread across numerous systems, making it easier for car dealers to compile offers. The upshot is improved sales efficiency and greater customer satisfaction.

The Digital Used Car Certificate

With the age of digitalisation now firmly under way, more and more people are turning to the Internet to research cars before making a purchase. Renault Polska, which already has a website for selling used cars, sought to take the appeal and authenticity of its current listings to a new level. To achieve that aim, the company decided to add a Digital Used Car Certificate functionality and turned to MakoLab to make the goal a reality.

The Digital Used Car Certificate has two component parts. First, there is the Inspection Certificate. An application for mechanics and sellers, it facilitates the digital supplementation of data obtained when a used car is inspected. The mechanic is able to carry out a wide-ranging review, including inspecting the bodywork, assessing the interior, checking the completeness of the equipment and the condition of the tyres and conducting a diagnostics inspection.

Next comes the Digital Certificate for the end customer. The outcome of the inspection is an interactive Digital Used Car Certificate, which sets out the results of the inspection and the technical condition of the car, along with an assessment made in line with the rules for evaluating a car. It can be downloaded and sent to the customer via the application and can be used in the announcement of the car’s sale published on

The MakoLab Digital Used Car Certificate is available in interactive form and as a PDF file available on the website and downloadable directly from the CarExport application.

R-Shop. An after-sales service

R-shop is the official after-sales service network for Renault and Dacia vehicles. The solution was designed and built by MakoLab to meet the goal of facilitating the work of car dealers in the EAST region and enabling their customers to order car servicing or purchase accessories quickly and easily. The client also required the deployment of the platform across the entire dealer network.

R-Shop was designed to align with the Renault and Dacia brand identity. It provides a personalised service based on a vehicle’s VIN and registration numbers. Customers have a trouble-free route to booking car services online at the prices applicable at that time and the network even enables them to opt for a door-to-door service or replacement car delivery. In addition, it offers a wide selection of car accessory items through an online store, with seasonal campaign and discount code functionalities available. The platform can also be integrated with local databases and online payment providers like WorldPay, ensuring that customers enjoy a seamless and secure shopping experience.

Supporting dealerships with 3D visualisers

Another IT solution that MakoLab uses to support automotive companies are 3D visualisers, in other words, tools that allow consumers to see and interact with virtual 3D models of cars on a dealership’s website or in a showroom. This solution provides the dealerships themselves with several benefits. To begin with, it offers a more engaging and interactive way for potential buyers to explore different car options, which, in itself, provides a more immersive and enjoyable customer experience. In addition, the ability to customise and visualise the car in 3D can help buyers to make more informed purchasing decisions, reducing the likelihood of returns or exchanges.

At the same time, 3D visualisers can be integrated with other dealership tools, such as their inventory management and CRM systems. This makes a more personalised experience possible and enables dealerships to provide targeted offers and promotions to customers on the basis of their preferences and previous interactions with the automotive manufacturer. The end result is a seamless process.

Balancing emotions and practicalities in car-buying decisions

It is crucial to remember that car-buying decisions are influenced by emotions and practicalities. Car dealerships can appeal to both aspects by offering a range of vehicles, meeting diverse needs and preferences, highlighting practical features and creating a strong emotional connection. A personalised buying experience that provides test drives and detailed information can build trust and loyalty and that, in turn, can generate repeat business and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. In general, it is vital for dealerships to seize on these important factors and work to create a positive and personalised experience for each of their customers.

Conclusion. Empowering dealerships to adapt and thrive in the digital era

The market today means that many customers’ first interaction with car dealerships is via their online presence and image. Shifting focus and prioritising the maintenance of a positive online image is therefore critical. It might be challenging to replicate the traditional experience of real-world visits to a dealership, but state-of-the-art technologies enable us to offer a wide range of solutions capable of fulfilling customers’ demands. Some that are new today may soon become standard, meaning that car dealerships could well find themselves having to open up to even more automotive software-based solutions. If one thing seems certain, it’s this; the sooner you lean into the digital age, the better things will be for your business.

Inez Bartosińska
Digital Marketing Specialist

Automotive, Innovation, Connected Experience, Insight