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One-in-10 car buyers ready to transact wholly online

The Renault Buy Online platform in action

One-in-10 car buyers are ready to complete their purchase wholly online, according to new research from What Car?.

Six months after showrooms reopened once again in the UK, bring an end to months of COVID-19 enforced closures which pushed consumers towards online purchasing, the consumer title said that its findings indicated that digital retail was “here to stay” for car retailers.

“Evidence now suggests 10% of car buyers won’t visit retailers again”, it said.

Responses from 1,158 in-market buyers showed that 10.3% were planning to buy their next car entirely online, with 69.3% preferring a mix of online research and direct shopping with dealers.

The former represents a slight increase from May this year when 8.9% were planning to buy their next car entirely online, What Car? said.

In addition, in the latest survey 52% of respondents said they would be comfortable buying their next car online, up from 42% in May. 

What Car? editor Steve HuntingfordWhat Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “Online buying is now a permanent feature of the car buying landscape in the UK. While the majority of buyers still prefer in person buying, it’s important dealers keep up with the latest digital innovations to meet evolving consumer demands.

“The large gap between those comfortable with idea of buying online and those actually doing so suggests more needs to be done to improve both the customer experience and consume perceptions around online car buying.”

What Car? said that much of the recent increase in the prospect of a wholly-online car buying process could be attributed to ongoing new car supply issues resulting from the global shortage of semiconductor microchips and other components.

It found that 47.1% of respondents were now more likely to look at online options due to improved vehicle availability on the internet.

When asked where buyers think they can get a better deal, 42% said they think they can get an equally good deal when buying online or when visiting a dealer.

The proportion of customers who thought one method provided a better chance of a good deal were also split; while 28% said they think dealers offer a better discount, 30% believe the best offers can be found online.  

The growth of virtual showrooms has also improved the perception of online sales, with 45.8% stating they would skip a visit to a showroom if they could have a virtual tour of the models they were interested in.

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