Research suggests that by 2020, 40% of car buyers will be millennials – a generation in which 88% of people buy online.
The automotive industry, just like so many other sectors, is currently being disrupted, and at the heart of the change lies the customer experience. The car buyer journey is on its way to becoming end-to-end digital, giving consumers more options than ever before and increasingly immersive ways of finding –and buying– their next vehicle.
Putting the customer first – two examples
Let’s examine pieces of real-world evidence where two of the biggest brands in the automotive sector are digitally transforming the car buying and ownership experience.
The Swedish car maker promises customers will be able to purchase their new Volvo faster than it takes them to shop their weekly groceries.
In fact, their revolutionary online buying experience claims you can purchase your next vehicle in just twenty minutes, without ever leaving the sofa.
Via a simple web interface, people can select and configure their car (from engine type to trim level), organise part-exchange and choose a finance package. Known as Volvo Online, this step-by-step process seems perfectly geared towards a consumer base that is used to buying as simply and securely as they would from Amazon or eBay.
It’s important to stress that the system also directs customer to their local dealership where they discuss details digitally or in person, see and test-drive the vehicle before sealing the deal.
In a nutshell, the digital car buying process is putting even more control into the customer’s hands.
If there’s one automotive company that has already disrupted the industry in multiple ways, it’s Tesla, but Elon Musk’s electric car firm is taking things a step further in the servicing sector.
The software in Tesla cars is capable of receiving online updates as new features and improvements become available, but what’s more exciting is their customer-centric approach to service. The new scheme, called Mobile Service, could make trips to the service centre a thing of the past. Customers, using the Tesla app, are able to order car repairs remotely, choosing the date, time and even the location where the technician, if possible, will visit the customer on-site and perform the service. Talk about putting the customer at the center of the action!
What customers expect from the car sales process
The digital age has dramatically increased car buyers’ expectations and automotive businesses who fail to take note are likely to struggle against the more innovative competition.
There are, broadly, four common expectations from customers in their car buying experience:
Car buyers are generally more informed these days when they reach the point of purchase, thanks to online research they can undertake without ever setting foot in the dealership. That means manufacturers and dealers need to offer as many options as possible without sacrificing simplicity for customers to configure their perfect vehicle.
Today’s car buyers like doing their own research and online reviews play a huge role in that process. Google, Trustpilot and social media reviews are therefore playing a key role in the decision-making process and need to be monitored by businesses within the automotive industry. It’s also important to be able to handle the occasional negative review.
A personalized and engaging experience
The public is already used to configuring their cars before purchase, digitally or with the help of a salesperson. However, the modern buyer expects so much more beyond configurators. They expect a fully, end-to-end digital buying and ownership experience, often with minimal human contact, as well as access to their own, personalised after-sales and service area using just their smartphone or browser.
Despite all the above, the traditional car buying experience isn’t going away soon. Even though most journeys today begin digital, customers will still visit the showroom, talk to the dealer, test-drive the car and negotiate face-to-face. The most successful dealerships will therefore be those who combine that traditional approach with the disruptive elements of the modern car buying process.