Today, with the acceleration in UK automotive ecommerce continuing to grow, leading solutions provider, Automotive Transformation Group has laid out its predictions for the next big trends to watch in selling cars online for the year ahead.
With automotive ecommerce sales kicking off strongly at the start of 2022 in the same vein as the last 18 months, several of the Group’s experts have forecast what they believe to be the next big things to look out for in automotive ecommerce in the coming months.
Looking at some of the key trends for 2022, Paul Stokes, Automotive Transformation Group’s Director of Digital Retailing, said, “2021 was a fundamental year in cementing online car retailing as here to stay. For too long, our industry has lagged other consumer industries in offering a truly convenient and transparent retail experience with trust at its heart. Now, especially in light of the pandemic effect, many retailers have realised that to succeed with car buyers, whether they are three miles away or 300, as well as stay ahead of their competition, having a fully optimised, immersive and responsive ecommerce platform is a must-have. Nevertheless, there are still many areas of omnichannel automotive ecommerce with as yet untapped potential. Today, we’re setting out just a few of our insights into where we believe the market is going and how we can help car retailing firms meet imminent customer needs, as well as drive sales and profitability even higher if they are adopted and built-in in the right ways.”
Its list of the next key trends includes:
1. Offering a complete end-to-end purchasing journey
In recent times, many UK car retailers have embraced the ability to offer consumers car reservations for a nominal sum, as well as Click & Collect or home delivery. Right now however, many are still selling themselves short when it comes to offering car buyers the ability to buy a car in minutes from the comfort of their own home, should they prefer to transact that way. The demand for end-to-end purchasing is clear from the increase in dealer websites offering reservations and finance application online. In fact, over 70% of Automotive Transformation Group clients offer ecommerce functionality across their websites. Meanwhile, some retailers and major car brands are also increasingly looking to allow all financing and trade-in possible online too, including all necessary paperwork.
2. Harnessing the power of a truly omnichannel car buying journey
Having a website showing your stock and latest car offers is no longer enough. Many car buyers blend virtual research and mobile stock or offer updates with physical test drives and in-showroom advice. Being able to use a customer’s data, preferences and even configured car choices across multiple channels, to save time on both sides and help the buyer along the purchasing journey with the minimum of hassle, can really pay dividends when it comes to securing a sale.
3. Allowing customers to pay with differing payment methods
Automotive Transformation Group has seen double digit rises in Apple Pay being used for online transactions.
At the same time, it has now become the only ecommerce solutions provider able to car retailing businesses the power to enable bank transfer transactions to be completed, safely and securely to pay in full for a new or used car. This could unlock even greater potential by saving consumers the time and worry of moving large sums around their own bank accounts and ensuring that the funds have cleared by the right time.
4. Transitioning sales personnel to becoming product experts and virtual hosts
Increasingly, today’s modern car buyers, both new and used, are so well informed, having done significant amounts of research prior to visiting a showroom, that there is less of a need to “sell” and more to “guide”. Some retailers and pop-up stores are already embracing digital hosts and product experts. It’s something which we expect to grow significantly throughout the rest of this year.
5. Automated online video
Video is becoming an even more essential part of online car retailing, particularly to buyers living significant distances away, as well as to other consumers keen to do as much homework as possible and whittle down their potential car lists before travelling and giving up their valuable time. Since last year, Automotive Transformation Group has been working with technology partner Phyron, to offer automated AI videos to increase enquiries and the quality of stock videos. The technology works by taking back office car information feeds and creating short videos in seconds, with chosen backgrounds and music, highlighting key features and offers, hosted on retailer websites, as well as car classified sites. In short, it means you can automatically create videos for an entire car brand, single site or franchise network inventory in moments, as well as ensure it is updated without a salesperson even needing to leave their desk to film it, let alone edit or upload the end result. The commercial savings in both time and money are substantial, as is the ability to free up sales teams to focus on more value-adding exercises to drive profitability instead.
6. Live Chat for critical journey touch points
Live chat is playing an even more integral part in the customer buying journey and this is only likely to grow further. To support easy and efficient interaction with buyers, Automotive Transformation Group is developing its live chat offering to be more integrated in the customer buying journey, at certain critical touch points within a client’s web platform. They will be able to drop personalised links into a live chat that will serve as prompts and guidance to enter key stages of an online purchase. Backed up with live chat engagement, the platform is on hand to answer any questions a customer has about their prospective purchase and to support in closing a sale.
2021 was the year when auto ecommerce cemented its place as not just a key part of a retailer and car brand’s sales operations, but arguably its most crucial. With showrooms closed on and off throughout the year and consumers locked down for large parts, being able to browse, reserve and in some cases, buy a car fully online, became the easiest way to get into a new car, particularly for those keen to avoid using public transport during the pandemic.
Now however, having an online presence in isolation is not enough to stand out from the competition. Today’s car buyers are looking to not just reserve a car online, or organise its home delivery, many are also keen to interact with sales teams purely digitally, buying it seamlessly online in their own time and on their own terms without even venturing into a showroom to complete finance paperwork or test drive it.
Commenting on Automotive Transformation Group’s success, Chief Revenue Officer, Tim Smith, said, “Ensuring that car retailers and major car brands keep pace with modern day consumer purchasing preferences and behaviour, as well as ensuring their loyalty ahead of the competition, has become a key element in our success with customers. Having an innovative ecommerce strategy and operation is not just a prerequisite for success in these increasingly digital times, it’s crucial for survival.”
Last year proved to be a very successful first one for the Automotive Transformation Group. Following the merger of leading ecommerce and in-showroom solutions provider, GForces with top fleet and loyalty solutions provider, Autofutura, last July, the company has since gone on to even greater success.
During 2021, the team welcomed a quarter more new clients running its award-winning NetDirector® suite, as well as a 124% increase in transactions and 44% increase in organic traffic visits compared to 2020. Almost half of which were completed out of hours between 6pm and 9am. Mirroring consumers’ desire for a hassle-free, straightforward purchasing process, interestingly, it also saw its customers benefit from a 32% increase in the number of valuations completed entirely online.