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Accelerating the digital customer experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the evolution of the car buying process. As consumer acceptance of automotive ecommerce has grown, so too has the use of video for communications. So how should retailers now build on years of sales expertise to create new experiences that excite and delight customers?

Despite facing extreme adversity in 2020, the industry has shown how agile and responsive it can be.

The question is, how far have retailers evolved and how much further do they need to go to meet the expectations of increasingly tech-savvy consumers?

To find out, CitNOW polled 1,000 car buyers and 500 retailers.

What has changed and why?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, motor retailers and workshops had to adapt quickly to a changing situation – from the ‘new normal’ of social distancing, to journey restrictions and economic uncertainty.

The acceleration of automotive ecommerce
As a result of the pandemic, the automotive industry is becoming more aligned with the trend of online purchasing. Our research shows that a third (31%) of car buyers would consider purchasing their next car entirely online – in line with other recent industry surveys. For 31-40 year olds this rises to almost half (48%).

Video becomes key part of the buying journey
The popularity of video as part of the buying journey is growing rapidly – especially for those who have used or received a video as part of the process of purchasing a car in the last 12 months. 84% of car buyers who had already received a video said that they found it to be a valuable part of their purchasing journey, up from 73% three years earlier.

Expanding the customer base
45% of consumers we surveyed said that they would use classified websites (e.g. Auto Trader, Carwow) to research their next car, compared with just 33% in a 2017 CitNOW survey, second only to visiting the dealership.

(55%) said that they would be willing to travel greater distances to seal a deal if they had received a personalised video of the car that they are interested in.

Invest in the future of selling
In response to the current level of demand for ecommerce across all sectors, almost nine in ten (87%) retailers we surveyed agree that it is now more important than ever to invest in online communication tools, with 91% also planning to use more video for customer interaction. The research also highlights how the industry is adapting to changing consumer behaviours and the trading restrictions presented by the COVID-19 lockdowns. Over 93% of dealers rated video as an important tool for keeping in touch with customers that are unable or unwilling to visit the dealership, behind only telephone calls (100%) and emails (99%).

What comes next?

Every customer is different and the information they require should, wherever practical, be delivered in their desired format.

Consumer expectations of the automotive buying experience are changing faster than ever before. Find out more about the changing customer and how you can engage by reading the full report.

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