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How the Internet Has Changed the Way We Buy Cars
Technology has affected the modern shopper in more ways than one.
14:19 05 July 2018
In a world that is extremely connected and ridden with apps, ecommerce websites, online reviews, and personal experiences of people buying and selling cars, the scene now is very different as compared to how it used to be decades ago.
Gone are the days when prospective car shoppers would visit dealership after dealership, scrutinizing, noting features and comparing them, evaluating prices, until they would zero down on a vehicle that would suit their requirements.
Dealing with persistent salespeople and haggling for the cheapest rate possible is slowly becoming passé.
Influence of the dot-com industry on the automotive market
The dawn of the Internet was a game-changer in the late 90s. Car buying became easier at least for those who knew how to use the Internet and access information. Car dealers would send quotes to interested customers based on their preferences and queries.
They most often quoted the most competitive price because it’s common knowledge, so would the other dealerships. Down the years, companies started putting together lists of used cars. It was easier to now know the worth of cars based on mileage and years of usage.
A recent survey states that 88% of car buyers access information over the Internet and research on cars before and while purchasing a new or used car. On an average 59% of a car buyer’s time goes into online research on the automotive market and shopping online in general.
One step further – several used car dealers offer a complete experience of browsing used cars and completing all the paperwork and payment transactions online. The car you buy is then delivered right to your doorstep. Of course, you can always return the car if you’re not satisfied.
As times evolve, smart dealers find a way to adjust their business practice in order to maximize their benefits while keeping prices competitive and paying the most attention to customer experience and satisfaction.
Purchase behavior and influences of the modern shopper
Need for a smooth experience
Gen Y and Millennials have grown up with modern technology, and they dwell in every online experience possible in their day to day life. From dating to productivity apps, health, and finance to high-value goods purchasing – they do it all with ease.
They have high expectations and want their shopping experience and their purchase, in this case their car, to be hassle-free, easy and with no frills. Prospective car customers know as much or even more than the salesperson. That’s because they spend hours on end researching about cars they’ve shortlisted for a buy – makes and models, reviews, and ratings, features, and history of used cars, if that’s their choice.
Having a car is no more a luxury for the chosen few. Almost everyone who can afford one has one. Banks and financing companies are making it easier for the salaried individual to own their dream car.
Payment methods and availability of installment options (EMI) and car loans have also opened up the market for a whole segment people. A car calculator can give one the breakup of the exact amount they would be spending on their purchase within a given time period to pay up a loan or fill in their EMIs.
Availability of information
We need information instantly. Earlier it was with websites – power houses of information about particular automotive brands. Swanky and stylish as the product it stands for, often interactive and providing an immersive user experience.
Websites give all the information upfront, and they also provide an opportunity for car buyers to ask questions, request detailed catalogs and allow smart comparison of models, features, and prices.
Impact of mobile technology
Smartphones have taken things a step further – one can get all the information they need in the palm of their hand. Mobile websites, apps, and local listings take into account geographic location of the user and provide store hours, location, one-touch contact options and maps with directions.
Take for instance a serious car buyer has spent hours researching about his potential next car; he now wants to quickly move on to making his purchase and narrowing down on a dealer. Finding the right information and in a timely manner is crucial.
Search engines can show the customer the nearest showroom, their timings, contact details and location, their ratings, sales track record, reviews, the works. This reduces the time taken to make a purchase from both the customer and the dealer’s perspective; it’s a win-win situation.
Role of digital marketing
Marketing efforts are always focused on where the customer is. In this case, when the mass of the car buying population have their noses deep in their tabs and smartphones, and when their day is incomplete without at least 5 Google searches, then that’s where the marketing department needs to spend their budgets.
Search engine marketing, paid social media ads on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and search engine optimization are the buzzwords that car dealerships need to pay attention to and implement if they want to leverage on their business in this digital age.
Digital advertisements, search, display, and social can target the right people at the right time and capitalize on a prospective customer.
If a customer’s online behavior shows that he is looking at and comparing cars of a particular brand or price range, digital marketers can and show them ads of competitors, or listings based on their location, interests, and any other permutation or combination.
Social media and its influence
If your friend bought a new car, posted a picture of it on Facebook, reviewed the car dealership, or if he had a negative experience with a particular car or brand and made his opinion very public – won’t you pay attention to his opinion or be influenced by him in a way?
This is why car brands have started taking digital marketing and online reputation very seriously. They all strive to provide excellent after sales service both physically and digitally, they are prompt in responding to queries and always try to be one step ahead of the competition.
The way we use technology, the way we consume digital information, view websites and ads, our search patterns, our conversations on social media, the pages we ‘like’ and the brands we ‘follow’ – all play a role in our purchase behavior. Be it in buying clothes, electronics, or in buying a car.
With the changing times, dealerships have adapted and are implementing new ways to attract car buyers, pique their interest, give them exactly what they are looking for and close on sales.
It is wise to use technology to their benefit and optimize the buying experience for the customer and the selling process for the dealer. The massive influence of the Internet on the automotive industry in unquestionable and there’s no looking back from this point on.