Buying cars online – dealers must change their sales channels

Patrick Tarkowski

by patrick tarkowski

Buying new cars online

A study has revealed that the future of car retailing lies in the digital world. By 2020, one in three cars will be bought online, which will affect young, Internet-savvy buyers and families in particular. Car dealers and manufacturers must adapt to a change in sales channels. It is clear that only those suppliers who offer multi-channel solutions and can compete on price with the often low-priced offers of online exchanges and sales platforms on the internet have a chance in the digital competition.

The five different types of buyers and their preferences

For the representative study of the A.T.Kearney unternehmensberatung, 2.500 people of legal age interviewed by telephone about how they have bought a car in the past and how they intend to do so in the future. Five different types of buyer emerged: the "pragmatic mainstream" (26%), "digital families" (23%), "involved traditionalists" (21%), "analog" (18%) and "digital user-oriented" (12%). The "pragmatic mainstream" is open-minded about online purchases and is primarily price-oriented when making a purchase. The "analog" and ""involved traditionalists" would not buy on the internet, but need the advice of a specialist dealer on the spot. The last two groups are particularly young and are mainly looking for special offers when buying online. More than 60% of respondents are therefore prepared in principle to buy a car on the internet. Various criteria such as age, income and brand loyalty play a role in the selection process. In addition, users differ in the way they search for and process information. It is imperative that manufacturers and retailers take these facts into account in order to remain competitive in the future.

Online buyer types

This is how the change in automotive sales will take place

The authors of the study predict a transformation in automotive sales that will take place in two phases. At first, buyers will still use local offers to get information, test drive and make comparisons. However, the actual car purchase is then made on the Internet, where significantly more favorable conditions are usually offered than by the specialist dealers. In a second phase, these steps will also be carried out digitally and buyers will carry out all the steps of the car purchase online, from putting the car together to the test drive. Only older target groups will still use stationary dealers to buy a new car. To cater to both groups of buyers, retailers and manufacturers need to offer multi-channel solutions and take a differentiated look at the respective interests of the different users.

Buying a car on the Internet

Multi-channel solutions are the recipe for success in the automotive industry

At present, the threat posed by digitalization to the traditional new car business is not yet that great. This is primarily due to the fact that the young, Internet-savvy target group is primarily interested in used cars because their incomes are still low. The shift towards digital car buying, which is already a reality in the used car world, will also spread to the new car business in the coming years, when today’s younger generation will have appropriate jobs and a high income. For this reason, in 10 years’ time, only those manufacturers and suppliers who are already preparing for the changes in the automotive business and adapting their sales structures and sales channels will still be around. Only multi-channel solutions that take into account and satisfy the individual wishes of the various target groups, combined with competitive prices, will lead to success in the long term.

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