One-in-five of all UK car sales will be conducted online within five years, according to GForces.
The web management company for the automotive sector believes that the path people have traditionally followed when buying a car – going to a dealership, test driving the desired car, then signing on the dotted line – could be replaced with an entirely web-based purchasing process.
They believe that up to a fifth of automotive consumers will read online reviews from trusted outlets, find the best price, and then conduct a secure financial transaction over the internet, just as many currently do with other financial products and holidays.
Tim Smith, GForces commercial director, said: “Visits to dealerships will continue because some people want to test drive the vehicle or speak face-to-face. However, the internet generation are less inclined to this behaviour.
“This fact, coupled with improving vehicle quality and extended warranties, makes the test drive less important than it once was. Consumers also have the added protection of distance-selling regulations that gives people a cooling-off period once a vehicle is delivered to them.”
Smith believes that the increased virtualisation of society through social media, and mankind’s reliance on technology to deliver experiences and interaction, mean that there’s no real reason why even something as emotive as a vehicle purchase can’t be conducted over the web.
He added: “Nearly a quarter of people polled in a recent Capgemini study said they are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to purchase a vehicle over the internet in the future.
“Research results like these, coupled with people’s growing propensity to look to the internet for trusted information rather than visiting a dealership, suggest to me that dealers’ websites will soon offer the facility to complete the final step in the process, too.”
However, rather than forecasting the beginning of the end for traditional dealers, Smith believes that they now have the chance to get their online presence in order before the goalposts move.
He said: “If they take this chance to put in place an effective web marketing strategy, they’ll be far better equipped to operate successfully in the online marketplace of the future and to adapt to whatever consumer trends come their way.”