Digital media now accounts for half of the direct ways in which consumers research used car purchases, with customers spending more time researching purchasing and finance options online, according to a survey commissioned by independent lender MotoNovo Finance.
The survey found Auto Trader, which launched a tablet edition last year, dominates initial web searches; however, it is the click-through to a dealer’s website and the experience once there, which shapes the customer’s decision to visit a showroom.
Finance forms a crucial part of the used car buying decision process for many customers and dealer sites which fail to include transparent information online may jeopardise the completion of a successful sale, according to the research.
Karl Werner, head of sales and marketing at MotoNovo, said: "Customers want to be better informed about their used car purchase. Dealers need to develop the personalised, interactive buying experience that customers want.
"Our research supports work undertaken by Capgemini that suggests today’s demanding customers will not go to a dealer’s showroom if the digital experience is poor. Capgemini’s work indicates that up to 74% of customers would simply walk away in such circumstances."
MotoNovo has also attempted to drive technological innovation on forecourts, launching its MotoClick electronic signature product as part of a £1.8m investment by parent company WesBank last November. Werner estimated a third of MotoNovo’s portfolio were using the tool within the first 10 working days, following a six-week pilot at the start of the year, and claimed one dealer had used it to process a finance deal within 42 minutes.
Speaking to Motor Finance last month, Roland Schaack, managing director of Codeweavers, also highlighted the importance of being able to link the customer’s online experience with the dealership: "Between the showroom and their website, there’s always a right time to catch a customer and if the customer’s taking a call to action on your website, there’s no better time to engage," he explained.
Customers wanted "an Amazon-type experience", according to Schaack, and not to be "strong-armed" at a dealership. "By the same token, dealers still want to exert their influence on customers, to help them make the right choices," he added.