Before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in the world, a very small percentage of customers would even consider buying a car online. But things have changed drastically since 2020, and car purchasing trends have undergone massive shifts too.
What do the current trends say?
CDK Global has conducted an extensive survey. According to the report, a major chunk of car shoppers are willing to start buying cars online. Almost 70% of shoppers expected to find the ability to configure a vehicle and offer on a dealership website, while over 80% said that the availability of online buying technology would influence their decision of buying a vehicle, and also help to narrow down vehicle choice to understand what is affordable. 60% of consumers are more comfortable when it comes to starting the car buying process on a dealer’s website as compared to third-party ones.
The way buyers research their cars has changed quite a bit, especially with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. While online purchases have grown leaps and bounds, a significant portion of consumers want to get the real-life experience of being in the showroom and seeing the car with their own eyes.
Video marketing is making the car buyers’ research process more streamlined, while creating a more relevant and personalized experience at the same time. A 360 degree view of the interior and exterior walkarounds can be provided through video. Buyers are open to being convinced to purchase a car from a 360-degree video without even taking the vehicle out for a spin.
BMW has run a superb video campaign, called #BMWSTORIES. They have showcased customers’ personal stories and how the BMW brand has stood by them through emotional real-life journeys. The company has received millions of views on each video, with a fantastic engagement rate. It is necessary to give visual insights to potential buyers that go beyond just uploading pictures on a website. Employees should be trained to use platforms like YouTube and Facebook, so they can actively engage with customers and give detailed demonstrations.
Virtual test drives
A lot of people nowadays don’t want to step out of their homes unless it is absolutely necessary. But most consumers won’t purchase a vehicle before test driving it first. Moreover, several have complained they don’t like the current process that typically involves being accompanied by a salesperson. Now they seek a more convenient test drive process with less pressure, such as being able to test drive different vehicles across brands in a single place.
Virtual test drives with the aid of virtual and augmented reality makes it possible to provide a similar experience to customers. Using VR technology and specialized apps, almost every showroom can be transformed into a virtual reality showroom. Audi and BMW have successfully used this technology to their advantage. Users can view the models available at the showroom from the privacy of their home, and go on test drives at leisure. It is time for dealerships and showrooms to invest in VR, so they can offer immersive test-drives which can enhance the customer experience that also help to sell cars to existing customers and drive more referrals.
Completion of financing paperwork
Consumers are no longer satisfied with the paperwork process – they want improvements. As per Autotrader’s research, more than 70% of consumers want to finish the credit application and financing paperwork online. This will save them time and the pressure while filling out the paperwork is significantly less. Moving paperwork online and enabling consumers to complete it on their own time would greatly enhance the car buying experience.
Ironing out the deal
Consumers don’t wish to spend valuable time going to the dealership or showrooms again and again to negotiate and structure the final deal. They want to negotiate on their own terms and start the process online itself. Haggling with a salesperson is the last thing they want. Proper systems need to be developed that let customers negotiate and chalk out the details online.
This is why dealerships and showrooms should now be looking into digitizing their processes as much as possible. A solution like Modera Salesfront helps take the customer experience to a whole new level when visiting a showroom, but also allows the sales people to save time on paperwork, as they can quickly and easily draft and send offers online.
Are car dealers following through?
Car dealers are doing their part to improve digital sales during the pandemic. Programs that include convenient and contactless test drives, virtual showrooms or video-based car walkarounds, along with home delivery or contactless pickup, are being offered to buyers.
Automakers are taking it a step further by launching pilot programs for near-complete e-commerce offerings. It helps to guide customers through the selection process and then hand them off to a dealer to close the sale.
Honda made waves with its Shop Simple initiative, which expanded massively within weeks. The online platform lets customers explore company inventory, filter for personalized features, and get details about colors, trim levels, packages, and options. It also generates a discounted internet price, computes values of trade-ins, and modifies the final price accordingly. After choosing a vehicle, the customer can choose a finance or lease option, and pick a protection plan like limited warranty or extended-service contract. Once the order is submitted, the customer is directed to a local dealer, who completes the paperwork and delivers the vehicle.
Thanks to programs like Honda’s there is enormous potential to kick-start online car purchases, but the experience has to be more streamlined. Even before the pandemic hit, consumers were extensively researching online before buying cars, and moving other parts of the purchasing process online as well – Covid-19 has just sped up the trend. It is now time for dealerships and showrooms to step up and cater to what customers want.
If your dealership is looking to start or expand its online presence, Modera Ecommerce is a great solution to help you get started and get your sales numbers growing.