A large percentage of dealers are at risk of missing opportunities and falling behind due to a lack of digital investment, Black Horse has said.

Lloyds’ motor finance lending arm asked 100 dealers about their digital investments, yet found less than half (43%) viewed investing in digital technology as critical this year.

This was despite almost three-quarters of dealers (73%) acknowledging customers carry out extensive online research and decide on the car they want to buy before visiting a dealership. 

More dealers were planning on investing in digital than in their premises or in increasing staff counts, however. 25% of dealers said they planned to invest in their premises this year, while 29% said they planned to recruit more staff.

Richard Jones, managing director of Black Horse, said: “Given the importance of digital in the car-buying process, it is a little surprising to find that some dealers have no immediate plans to invest in this area. Our figures show smaller dealers seem particularly reluctant to do so and so this could be down to economies of scale and affordability. However, changing customer habits and behaviours mean the challenge exists across the board. So it should be a priority for all dealers to continue to find a balance between the human interaction that only a showroom visit offers, and the technology that supports this.

“We are playing our part by continuing to work in partnership with dealers, large and small, to leverage our own technology such as our mobile calculator and new website to help drive customer traffic into showrooms, but I still think there is more that could be done to embrace digital technology.

“Consumers are increasingly using the internet as the starting point in their journey to purchase a new car and dealers should look to capture prospective customers at this point.  Those dealers with a compelling, user friendly platform will stand out from competitors because bricks and clicks will be the most successful model for years to come.”