The Dealership Dilemma - A Hybrid Approach for 3 Buyer Personas

When it comes to buying a car, a one-size-fits-all sales approach doesn’t cut it anymore - if it ever did.

Pre-COVID, consumers were already spending less time in-store, with an estimated 61% of active shopping time occurring online. Since COVID, in-person consumer shopping behavior has been pushed even further down the sales funnel, forcing retailers to meet their customers where they prefer to shop. There has never been a greater need to incentivize dealers to blend traditional sales methods, digital retail practices and online education to help employees transition from salespeople to trusted advisors.

Generally speaking, car buyers fall into one of three buyer personas:

  1. Traditional: This customer wants to do everything in person at the dealership.
  2. Hybrid: This customer completes some steps of the car buying process at the dealership, but they also prefer doing a lot of the legwork and negotiation online.
  3. Digital: This customer has no desire to ever step foot in a dealership and would rather complete the entire car buying process online.

If dealerships don’t account for these three scenarios, they risk missing sales opportunities. Luxury brands have long understood the importance of meeting customers where they are. Porsche, for example, has a history of focusing on high-touch in-person interaction. But now this venerable premium, performance brand is using digital methods to train staff and engage customers. By training retail professionals on the use of online presentations and walkarounds that focus on product features, in addition to creating immersive product videos of in-stock vehicles, Porsche is actively providing the right content and connection points for customers who prefer a more digitally-leaning retail experience.

But while Porsche acknowledges a need to offer first-class online experiences, it also maintains that physical, in-person experiences are as important as ever-- especially to customers who prefer a more traditional car shopping experience. To that end, Porsche dealers have invested $1 billion over the last 10 years to upgrade physical dealerships, and it is expected they will invest another $900 million over the next three years.

These in-store investments extend to the human interaction side with programs like Porsche Pro, which places a brand ambassador trained as a product and technical expert in each Porsche store to assist guests with any inquiry and provide answers to questions about vehicles, technology, and accessories.

This kind of investment in both on site and online customer engagement methods is a trend that will continue, and not just in the luxury vehicle market. The industry’s accelerating move toward electrification, connectivity, and V2X communication ups the ante of the sales experience. As retail teams grapple with educating customers on the value, benefit, and experience of EV ownership and future mobility, enabling and optimizing talent with technology and training will allow dealers to cultivate a winning culture and be ahead of the curve during this next, transformative decade.

In this evolving retail environment, where customization and consumer preference are all-important, being prepared for and adept at distinct types of preferred purchasing scenarios is critical. And an experienced-based, role play training plan that centers on each of these three approaches is a proven way for front-liners to get their heads around what works and what doesn’t in the critical effort to engage customers, sell vehicles, and achieve preferred brand status.

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