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Rockar ready to 'realise potential' of online car sales with retailer partnerships

Rockar founder Simon Dixon

Rockar founder Simon Dixon is expecting to “realise the potential” of his innovative automotive retail model in 2018 as the business celebrates its three-year anniversary.

In its first three years of trading, the company has logged 1.2 million user journeys through its one-of-a-kind online platform and has welcomed over a million customers through its retail-focussed stores across Hyundai, Jaguar and Land Rover.

But Dixon believes that the roll-out of Rockar’s online retail platform to franchised car dealers in the new year will see a tipping point in the development of his business.

Speaking to AM, Dixon said that facilitating online sales is where he always wanted the Rockar business to succeed, adding that he never wanted to create a business where he was “answering questions about sales volumes”.

He said: “When we entered the market three years ago I think retailers were suspicious. They saw us as a rival, a disruptor. That’s never what we wanted to be. I never wanted to be answering questions about sales volumes. We want to be a facilitator of online sales for manufacturers and retailers and I think 2018 will be the year that we realise that potential.”

 “We acknowledged a change in the way people wanted to interact when buying a car and we want to help retailers meet those changing demands.

Dixon said that 2018 would see Rockar rolling out its online retail platform to partner retailers “on a much larger scale”, adding: “We believe that in 2018 a reasonable number of retailers will go online. Will it be 20%-plus? I expect so, yes.

“Partnering with us, at this stage in our development, is literally like flicking a switch. For retailers it’s as straightforward as adding a ‘buy’ button to their website.”

Rockar is celebrating its three-year anniversary with plans to roll-out it online retail platform to franchised car retailers
Hyundai was the business' first manufacturer partner. The brand's chief executive Tony Whitehorn (left) is pictured with Rockar founder Dixon here
Rockar hailed the Hyundai Bluewater store as a "massive success"
Jaguar Land Rover were next to partner with Rockar, opening a store at Westfield to accompany its online retail offering
Visitors can visit the store to test drive and dicuss potential purchases but Dixon said premium buyers seem keener to transact online
Simon Dixon is critical of many online sales offerings available in the automotive sector and hopes to grow the influence of Rockar's platform with retailers across the UK

Lst month Rockar announced its collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors in the UK.

The brand will open its first UK ‘store’ towards the end of March and Dixon said that, despite a focus on the growth of the online retail platform, it will be opening the store and others in 2018.

He said: “There’s an awful lot in the pipeline. There will be more stores and more manufacturer partners.”

Rockar claims that its first Hyundai store, based in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, has proved to be “a monumental success”.

The business claims that Hyundai’s market share has risen from 1.7% to over 12% within the area - in a declining UK market – as a result of the store’s presence.

So far, Rockar has launched three manufacturer stores in the UK with a combined annual passing footfall of 89 million.

Rockar said that 95% of car buyers now use the internet when looking for a vehicle and its focus on fewer clicks in the journey, earlier visibility of finance options and delivery times, and significantly more accurate trade-in valuations all form part of the mix is central to what Dixon considers an efficient and usable online journey for customers.

The brand claims that the process results in 60% of Rockar customers completing their purchases via the online platform itself.

Recently, Rockar enabled a customer to purchase a Range Rover Autobiography in a single, online transaction from start to finish – on their mobile phone and Dixon claims that consumers with more to spend have proved keener to transact online.

He told AM: “Across the Hyundai business we have seen an average of 60% of the transaction completed at home. As soon as we opened the door it was about 25%, and that figure has grown.

“Take JLR as an example and a vehicle like a Range Rover or Range Rover Sport and we have seen that figure rise to 90% of transactions being made away from the store.”

Dixon was scathing of many suppliers and retail groups who have claimed to offer revolutionary online sales platforms in recent months and said that the only way the online journey will yield results is if the customer journey is simple and intuitive.

He said that, while Rockar works hard to integrate the feel and language of an existing site when integrating its online retail platform, in order to offer “a linear transition from the existing website”, too many businesses pursuing online sales have simply digitised their existing processes.

“I spend quite a bit of time exploring the various online retail platforms around in the sector and so often I find them clunky and off-putting. There are too many steps and processes.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to create partnerships which help a lot of people realise their potential online in the new year.”

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