Nearly eight out of 10 (79%) people say they would buy a new or used car entirely online – but more than half (57%) say that the online experience being offered lags behind, according to a new report.
The findings come from the first-ever iVendi Report on Online Motor Retailing, published today, which provides probably the most detailed and credible insight yet available into this rapidly growing area of the motor industry.
James Tew, CEO, at iVendi, which works with around 7,000 car dealers across the UK, said: "Many car buyers are clearly demanding a better online experience and one that dealers and manufacturers need to work to meet, and relatively quickly, given the omnipresent threat of disruptors entering the market."
Almost nine out of 10 (87%) car buyers also say that, despite their enthusiasm for online shopping, visiting a showroom remains a key part of the buying process.
James explained that the apparently contradictory findings from consumers – that they wanted both to buy online and visit a dealership – were easily explained.
"This is very much in line with our experience. Car buyers want a high degree of flexibility to construct their own buying process. This may be entirely online or entirely at the dealer – but is much more likely to combine the two.
"For example, they may find a used car online in which they are interested, go to the showroom to have a look, but then come home and complete the buying process and finance online. It's all about allowing them to buy in whatever way they want."
Overall highlights of the report, which looks at the attitudes of car buyers, dealers and motor manufacturers and was completed by APD Global Research, include:
- 79% say they would be "confident" or "completely confident" about buying a car online
- 87% indicate that visiting a car showroom is an important part of the buying process
- 57% believe that motor retail lags behind the best online retail experiences – generally typified by Amazon
- 89% say they would be "confident" or "completely confident" about financing a car online
- 51% believe that customers would buy a car from them entirely online and 6% offer this option currently
- 42% plan to increase their online retail activity in the next 18 months
- 84% say it remains important for the customer to visit the showroom
- 33% plan to offer the option to buy and finance a car online within the next 18 months
- 73% say that they will be increasing their investment in this area
- 81% believe that their existing dealer networks should be involved in online retail
- They currently see car supermarkets as their biggest online competition but, in the future, foresee it becoming digital marketplaces such as Amazon
James said that that the attitudes shown by the three groups surveyed provided an insight into the opportunities and challenges that the online motor retail sector faced.
"Consumers trust online car retailing and finance but they have concerns around security, the need to see the vehicle in the flesh and the desire for ease of experience. The dealer is still perceived as important in the sales process.
"The dealer is keen to maximise sales and believes that getting consumers into their showroom will support this but also wants to meet online consumer needs and improve the overall sales experience, so are evolving their web offerings.
"Finally, manufacturers view online as an important tool to achieving increased sales and brand profile. Plus, a strong online presence offers them a chance to compete with retailers, car supermarkets other digital marketplaces."
Report news summary
For consumers, the main advantage of online retailing was seen to be convenience and ease of shopping around and, when asked who provided the best online retail experience, Amazon was widely cited. The clothes and fashion, and consumer technology, sectors were seen as the most advanced for the online experience and the car sector being well behind the others, ranked at fifth.
When asked about general confidence regarding online security for a large purchase, 61% responded positively and said that they may choose to buy a car entirely online. For online car finance, this confidence rose higher still.
The main barriers to buying a car online related to the desire to see and test drive the car as well as the security aspect while, for financing a vehicle online, the barriers related to confidence and security. The positive factors making consumers more likely to buy and finance a car online were seen to be "trust in brand" followed by the lifestyle factors of a non-pressurised sale and convenience.
The role of a dealership visit as part of the buying experience was stated as important with 87% of consumers likely to visit a showroom to see and test drive a vehicle and ask questions.
Of the dealers surveyed, a majority thought that consumers would appreciate the option of buying and financing a car entirely online, and that this kind of activity would increase, particularly in the next 12-18 months. Twenty-eight per cent felt they were ahead or fully ready to offer car retailing and finance fully online with a further 29% building solutions at the moment.
Dealers were aware that online retailing would have an impact on how the motor industry retails to consumers and were keen to offer more online services. Those actively building solutions in the area say the top three areas of investment are video overviews of vehicles, car searches and live chat. However, it was still important (84%) to them that a customer visit their showrooms
Almost half of the manufacturers surveyed already offer the option to buy a car on their web site or agree that the technology is now available to offer this facility. Half of the remainder intend to do so. They see the opportunities of more brand visibility and believe it will bring new consumers. All but one manufacturer envisaged a role for the dealer network in this process, but they also see their dealers as a potential barrier to digital sales combined, alongside a lack of consumer interest.
Notes on the report
This report was compiled from online interviews conducted between the 21st March and the 9th April 2018. Three key audiences were interviewed for the research – dealers, consumers and motor manufacturers - to understand the online retail marketplace in more detail. There were 51 Dealer interviews, covering a range of different dealer structures and sizes, 304 consumer interviews with consumers who had a stated intention to buy a new car in the next 12 months and 11 manufacturer interviews, talking to individuals that were in roles looking at buying strategy and future buying models for cars. There was a general section at the start of the questionnaire looking at attitudes to online retailing and security and then three separate sections relating to the different audiences.