February’s auto sales results show that buying and spending are going against the grain.

Traditionally, February tends to be a slower sales month in the industry, but with incentive spending continuing to rise and major advertising weekends including the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game and President’s Day in the mix, sales volumes beat the month’s forecasts.

February’s impressive and out-of-the-box figures point to a larger trend. It does not matter what time of the year it is if consumers have all the technology and online tools they need at their fingerprints every day.

Consumers have been empowered with online information for more than a decade, and dealers finally are learning much about the consumer through direct-response advertising and audience targeting.

A recent Autotrader consumer survey indicates 98% of consumers want the ability to do at least some piece of the car shopping and buying process online.

Nearly 60% would like the ability to negotiate online, 50% would be willing to apply for financing online and 33% would be ready to sign a contract online. These percentages are expected to rise.

Using technology and online tools, dealers know when consumers are looking to buy, their preferences, credit availability and budgets among other things. Consumers know about dealers’ inventory, including trims, options, prices, fees, titles and taxes associated with a purchase.

With this information in hand on both sides, there now is a more transparent and personalized experience in the car-buying process, creating a more trusting and satisfying experience for all.

Consumers have shown time and again that when their experience matches their expectations they will pay a premium, so this creates an opportunity for more profits in terms of faster turn, better retention, repeat and referral business and lower costs to acquire new customers.

At the beginning of the year, I predicted dealers would focus on areas where profits can be made in 2017, including advertising that is personalized, transparent, trustworthy and across all channels. February’s numbers show digital retailing and advertising are growing in use and importance.

Andy MacLeay, is the director of digital marketing at Dealer.com, a Cox Automotive brand operating websites of 62% of U.S. franchise car dealerships.