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'Adapting to the new online consumer' - Chip Perry, Auto Trader

Emails and telephone calls are now redundant as a metric of a website or digital campaign’s success, according to Chip Perry, Auto Trader non-executive board member.

The former president and CEO of in the US will take to the stage at AM and Auto Trader’s Digital Marketing Conference which takes place on 12 February at Birmingham’s NEC and will explore the latest trends in the virtual arena.

Perry, who exported the brand from the UK to the US in 1997 and established it as the leading online used car classified directory by the time he took up his board role in 2013, will draw on the lessons learned from US consumers and ways American dealers developed to succeed in a new age of automotive retailing.

He said: “Typically, consumer trends in the US take around 10 years to emerge in the UK and many changes we have seen in America are now taking hold here which makes our experience and insights a goldmine for UK dealers. By learning the lessons which American dealers have taken a decade to understand and evolve their practices accordingly, UK dealers are poised to take advantage.”

Although UK dealers have embraced the digital age, Perry is convinced they have not taken the concept far enough and remain out-of-kilter with the modern day car-buyer.

“A dealer’s website is now the forecourt,” said Perry. “Each vehicle displayed needs to be done so with the same amount of attention to detail which dealers put into the multi-point check and presentation before a car is parked on the actual forecourt at the dealership. But in many cases, this is still not happening. The correct information is not readily available and many still do not have the extensive range of images the online consumer expects to see.

“We are also seeing the UK follow in the footsteps of another now dominant US trend: the return of the walk-in. In America, around two-thirds of car-buyers undertake all their research online and show up unannounced at the dealership which is selling the vehicle they have practically decided to buy. The dealership visit has become the final stage of the buying process and consumers expect to be able to visit without an appointment, test drive and buy, in the same way they would purchase practically any other consumer goods over the counter. In the UK, the figures for this trend are around 50% but it is increasing.

“These consumers are undertaking all their research and making their buying decision from the comfort of their own homes and they are doing it anonymously. They are not emailing or calling the dealership nor are they engaging in live chat. It means dealers have to provide all the information on the vehicle online from images to fuel economy figures as well as funding options.

“By default, it has made email and calling figures redundant as a measure of a website or marketing campaign’s success. Consumers are refusing to engage at this stage of the buying process. It makes full page views the new currency as far as metrics are concerned. A dealer’s website, therefore, needs to work harder than ever to establish the relationship and engender trust as well as supplying the level of information required.”

Perry will expound on the evolving online consumer behaviour as the UK follows in the cyber tracks of the US. By acknowledging and understanding these shifts in consumer online behaviour, dealers can apply the insights to their own websites, understand consumer demands and ultimately deliver according to the expectations of today’s car-buyer.

Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email  or visit

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