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Car dealers occupy bigger geographic footprint as buyers head online

Sean Kent, RAC director of sales at Assurant

Car dealers could soon gain a much larger geographical footprint as a post COVID-19 lockdown shift to online sales models attract buyers from further afield.

Research from the RAC Dealer Network found that a little more than a third (37%) of buyers travelled more than 20 miles to buy a car prior to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, the need to socially distance has led to a significant increase in online shopping across the spectrum.

While car dealerships are now permitted to re-open, work done to strengthen their online presence during the lockdown could lead to an increase in the number of sales taking place online.

Sean Kent (pictured), RAC director of sales at Assurant, said: “Dealers will need to carefully consider how consumers will react to the reality of the socially-distanced car showroom. There is likely to be a gradual build-up of in-person interest and consumer confidence over time but this might be a relatively slow process.

“That is why the digital proposition is becoming much more important. Locality has traditionally been a strong benefit for car dealers, even well into the 21st century as online shopping has become the norm in many other sectors. However, this is a moment when that may finally begin to change as retailers look to quickly develop their online capabilities.

“Online car and van showrooms are a great leveller. If, as a retailer, you have a vehicle that the customer wants, the right overall proposition, and the ability to deliver or offer click-and-collect, then how far away you are becomes much less of an issue. 

“It might be a stretch to believe that every dealer can develop a national presence. However, it’s credible to think that your current average 25 mile footprint could increase to become the distance a customer might be able to travel in two hours, or even more.”

There are around 1,500 dealers in the RAC Dealer Network and, since the start of lockdown, the situation has developed to reach a point where around a quarter are open and offering an online sales proposition for customers.

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