Online retail is a mainstay for today’s shoppers and increasingly attracting unexpected sectors – so what is driving shoppers online to buy cars?

Latest figures show that ecommerce continues to grow exponentially.

In 2016, £133bn was spent online shopping in the UK, a 16% rise on 2015, and IMRG and Capgemini are predicting further growth in online sales in 2017, forecasting a 14% rise.

The merging of online and offline is occurring across more and more industries. However, one industry we might not expect this is the automotive industry, where the need to touch and experience the product seems paramount.

Streamlining purchasing online

So far this year, we’ve seen incredible developments in the automotive retail industry, as car manufacturers increasingly look for ways to align with consumer shopping habits and streamline the purchase process of their products.

It was once unimaginable to purchase a car without taking it for a test drive, but this is no longer the case, as increasing numbers of consumers feel their online research is sufficient.

The average car buyer used to visit three showrooms before buying. Now that figure is down to one

Figures from Hyundai show that the number of customers who opt to take a test drive is now only 53%, which could be set to decrease as more car manufacturers start to offer ’buy online’ functions.

The average car buyer used to visit three showrooms before buying. Now that figure is down to one.

These developments are leading to an industry wide digital transformation.

Consumer purchase habits have changed hugely in the past few years and it’s only right that the auto industry transforms to reflect this.

For the first time ever, it’s now possible for motorists to buy a new car without visiting a dealership or meeting a car salesman.

Hedley Aylott Summit

Hedley Aylott

Hedley Aylott is chief executive and founder of Summit

Bridging offline and online

Hyundai, Peugeot and Smart have all recently launched ecommerce platforms, allowing consumers to manage the entire process of buying a car online.

Customers can choose the precise specifications they want – including colour and engine size – part-exchange their old car, arrange finance, decide whether they want their new model delivered to a dealership or to their home, and then click ’pay’.

The process can take as little as half an hour and can even be done on-the-go on a mobile phone.

It’s more important than ever for retailers to build and offer fully integrated, sleek, mobile friendly websites

We recently worked with Peugeot on their ‘Order Online’ ecommerce platform, which launched last month.

Peugeot wanted to create a connected dealership, bridging the gap between the traditional showrooms and the relaxed atmosphere of home online shopping.

Its cars can now be bought online at any time, on any device.

These developments highlight the importance of trust between retailers and consumers.

High customer expectations

Ten years ago, many people were sceptical about even buying clothes through a website without trying them on, today we’re seeing people buy cars online, and even on mobile.

It’s an exciting time for the retail industry, as consumers are increasingly putting their trust in retailers.

It’s more important than ever for retailers to build and offer fully integrated, sleek, mobile friendly websites, to keep up with consumer demand.

Customer expectations are higher than ever and their time is limited.

Customers are more likely to return to retailers that offer a compelling proposition of range, price and service, and a quick and uncomplicated purchase process.

The retailers that address this will be the true innovators, and who knows what’s next? It’s going to be an exciting ride.

  • Hedley Aylott is chief executive and founder of Summit