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Quarter of car buyers ready for online sales, says Cox Automotive

A quarter of car buyers would be happy to purchase online today, while three-quarters say a website’s ‘quality’ would most likely influence their buying decisions.

Writing in the latest AutoFocus, Cox Automotive’s quarterly automotive insight update, Regit founder and chief executive Chris Ashton-Green, says answers provided by 3,000 digital garage users show how important a high quality online presence is.

What’s more, he thinks by the time the current youngest generation reaches car-buying age, there’s no reason to say that all consumers won’t be willing and able to buy a vehicle online.

He said: “The shift to online retail for car sales was, therefore, always coming before the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit the resulting lockdowns meant the transition received somewhat of a turbo injection.

“And, of course, it wasn’t just automotive that was impacted. Covid-19 played into the hands of the ‘now economy’ – the digital age that we live in, where consumers can buy things online and have them delivered the same day, where the only effort buyers must make is to lift their phone to their face so recognition can authorise the payment.”

The initial impression phase

With buying habits moving in an inevitable online direction, Ashton-Green thinks automotive retailers need to think seriously about the digital experience they offer.

He said: “It goes without saying that a brand presence online is key. 

“But simply building a website and hoping it wins business could work against you. A poorly functioning site could be worse than having no site at all.

“That’s because 75% of those we surveyed said the quality of a website would influence their decision, with almost half of those saying it significantly influences their decision.

“And with 92% expecting to be able to search available stock, three in four wanting to see high-quality photos and almost half expecting to see a video walkaround, it’s clear that those who invest online to win over the customer through that initial impression phase will give themselves a much better chance of securing business.”

Half of buyers could be ready for online sales before 2030

With improvements to technology and the current generation’s coming of age (as car buyers) considered, Ashton-Green wouldn’t be surprised if half of car buyers in the UK would be happy to reserve or buy solely online in as little as five years’ time.

He said: “As a result, a website’s quality, functionality, and capability, and not just building a site to tick a box, couldn’t be more important.

“When benchmarking your site against the competition, it will be useful to score against competitors but go outside the industry, too.

“Sites that load quickly, have been built with the customer in mind and those that have obsessed over simplicity will get more success than those clogged with info and no thought-through user journey.”

Online-only is not the way forward

While online continues to grow, in terms of functionality and the opportunity to evolve the customer experience, Ashton-Green insists that online-only is not the way forward.

He said: “There are so many questions and considerations involved in a car purchase that, for many, visiting forecourts will always be essential – even if they’re happy to reserve online.

“It’s here where technology and ‘real life’; need to hold hands.

“94% expect online experiences and those with a dealer to be joined up and simple, and 62% want to visit the dealership physically.

“As a result, it’s essential for retailers to make good use of data and technology so that when the consumer arrives for a look around or a test drive, the dealer knows their essential details, what car they like the look of and what they’re expecting to be able to do.”

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