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Buyers won’t flock to showrooms when lockdown lifts, research suggests

Auto Trader

Three-quarters (76%) of car buyers are concerned about returning to car showrooms when the Coronavirus lockdown is lifted, according to new research from Auto Trader.

The new and used car marketplace found that 82% of consumers researching their next car are looking to buy now or as soon as they’re able to make a transaction, but the vast majority are concerned about visiting a dealership in person once the current restrictions have been lifted.

Only a quarter (24%) of buyers said they would ‘definitely’ be happy to return to normal interaction with a retailer.

Home delivery was favoured by just 7% on consumers, suggesting that dealers will have to rethink the current retail experience if they want to maximise sales.

  • AM is urging retailers to share their experience of trading during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak via its two-minute, quick-fire ‘COVID-19 car retail recovery survey’. Click here to take part.

Auto Trader’s director of Commercial Products Karolina Edwards-Smajda said: “We’re confident the appetite to purchase remains, however our research highlights that for most consumers, their expectation of a retailing experience will be vastly different to what it was pre-lockdown.

"Retailers must use this time to plan how they can implement measures that enable their customers to buy a car safely and which comply to the strict guidance set out by the government. They must be retail ready for when the restrictions lift - failure to do so will put them at a huge disadvantage to those businesses that have been able to adapt to the new retail landscape we are now faced with.”

Half of the those surveyed said they’d still be happy to complete the purchase at the dealership, but wanted the majority of the process conducted online – viewing, test driving and collection would have to happen in one visit.  For younger car buyers (18-24) this increased to 61%.

Looking at the data on a more granular level, 52% of car buyers aged 55 and over would be happy to complete a purchase in person at a dealership, with more than one visit if required. In contrast, just a third (33%) of 18-24-years-olds said they’d be comfortable to do so. 

Auto Trader is set to introduce a range of new features to retailers’ adverts which indicate the new measures they are putting in place.

Businesses that provide a home delivery service will be able to include a corresponding service flag to their adverts, and for those who offer it, potential customers will have the option to book a Live Video Viewing directly with the retailer in order to explore any specific details or features they couldn’t find in the advert view.

Edwards-Smajda added: “With consumer visits to dealerships set to fall, online showrooms will become the primary mechanism for driving sales. As a result, the digital marketplace will become increasingly complex and competitive; the businesses that will stand out from their competitors will be those that not only build confidence in the cars they’re selling, but in their ability to sell them safely.

"That’s why our development team has been busier than ever to accelerate the launch of new functionality that will help retailers highlight the extra mile they’ve gone to keep their customers safe.”

The new features will appear on Auto Trader’s marketplace as soon as the current restrictions have been lifted and showrooms have been allowed to open in line with government advice.

The functionality will be included in all selling packages at no additional charge and apply to all channels, including vans, bikes and leisure. Retailers will receive more information on setting up these features next week (commencing May 4, 2020).

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