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It's time for car retail to focus on 'holistic' online sales, opinion

Lucy Trott, client direct at automotive eCommerce specialist Drivvn

The automotive industry is experiencing change at a pace never seen before and across more than one vertical.

The digitisation of the sales process and the move to alternative fuels have accelerated over the last 12 months.

Are retailers prepared for the journey? Data from digital stores and customer journeys across Europe shows that the way car buyers behave is changing.

Consumers want a complete solution coupled with high service levels. Lessons learned from digital interactions with organisations ranging from Amazon to Monzo mean that expectations have risen.

A purchase should be able to be completed quickly and seamlessly. 

In recent years we have seen a significant increase in the number of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) available on the market, with 30 new EV models due to launch in 2021.

In the year to April, sales of BEVs have jumped from 3.8% market share vehicles registered in 2020 to 7.5% in 2021.

The best way to support customers on the journey is to make access to information as easy as possible, providing consumers with a clear view of the benefits of owning an AFV.

Giving buyers an easy way to compare their existing vehicle and the benefits of switching to the new technology will increase sales conversion.

Ecommerce requires a big shift in business operating models.

It is not only consumers who need to go on a journey but the industry as a whole.

Currently, manufacturers are pushing to implement online sales ability while testing out various options available to them.

By learning from the rest of the retail sector, they are trying to figure out what can be replicated, what works and how to integrate this new model into our industry.

The rest of the retail sector has long been providing customers with more than a complete solution.

Amazon offers every product imaginable in one place, with same or next day delivery, and all within a few clicks.

In automotive, meeting consumer expectations means delivering complete connectivity.

An online store should offer the full range of models with easy to obtain information, and the ability to make comparisons with what else is available and what they have now.

The result is an unbroken journey for the customer.

Customer service is also improving across the automotive industry.

The use of AI and machine learning means questions can be answered immediately, around the clock. When buyers want someone to speak to, the resource is there.

There is plenty of evidence of rapid change.

The number of people who completed online reservations doubled during the first lockdown against the same period the previous year.

As customer behaviour continues to evolve, it will be necessary for the manufacturers and dealers to anticipate change and adapt the process.

The next step in automotive eCommerce is to ensure customers can complete the entire buying journey whilst dipping in and out of the sales process across multi-interconnected channels – a truly omnichannel approach.

The challenge for the industry is vast and complex. If a silo approach is to be avoided, it will be vital for suppliers to work together collaboratively to deliver a holistic outcome.

It’s a big task being so vast and complex in nature that if we aren’t careful, it leads to a limited view of the future being played out that doesn't take into account the full picture.

To support all stakeholders in the journey, Drivvn is creating an eCommerce focused steering group where OEMs, retailers, and industry leaders can come together to share and learn.

It’s important that as many people come together as possible to mutually advance the industry.

Author: Lucy Trott is client direct at automotive eCommerce specialist Drivvn.

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