CarMax Shifts Into Digital Overdrive

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Online car-buying continues its momentum as CarMax, which bills itself as the largest retailer of used cars, has announced the completion of its digital rollout, which the company says gives CarMax the largest addressable market in the used car industry.

The company’s digital platform empowers customers to buy a car online, in-store or through a mix of both. The announcement was made within the company’s second-quarter earnings release, where CarMax reported record results and profitability.

The platform focuses on personalizing the customer experience. The new eCommerce capacity allows consumers to shop for vehicles, secure preapproval for financing and obtain an online trade-in estimate. Customers can research online and then complete the transaction in-person at one of CarMax’s 220 stores nationwide, or can buy the car online and receive delivery through curbside pickup (available nationwide) or home delivery, which is available to most customers.

“When we set out to create the future of car buying, we knew that customers wanted personalized, convenient and on-demand retailer experiences where they can seamlessly navigate between online and in-person, all on their own terms,” said Bill Nash, president and CEO of CarMax. “CarMax has always stood for empowering the customer and offering an exceptional experience. The significant investments we’ve made in technology and digital innovation, coupled with the efforts of our 25,000 associates nationwide, enable us to deliver this experience the way only CarMax can.”

Other recent research showed that the differences between researching – which the vast majority of consumers will do online – and actually purchasing can be substantial. According to a recent report from Cox Automotive, most people are comfortable researching incentives and scheduling test drives online, saying that they believe it will save them time and stress. But in the final steps of the purchasing process, shoppers tend to prefer in-person communication.

“As the deal approaches and the car-buying journey nears its close, people lean toward face-to-face interaction, saying that it makes it easier to negotiate a price and trust a dealer. That in-person connection is increasingly being offered at the customer’s home,” the Cox report says. “When a dealer’s website or an automotive shopping website offers options that address the perceived blind spots of shopping online (think test drives, complementary mechanic inspections and the ability to opt-out of a deal after seeing the car in-person), people are more likely to buy a car online.”

The report recommends giving consumers more options when it comes to selecting warranties and financing options. Pre-pandemic, only about one-third of all dealers would offer these options to shoppers online. Dealers have continually added services that allow for virtual vehicle walk-arounds and remote digital completion of paperwork.

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