Buying cars online – it’s complicated

It is constantly being argued that online sales will eventually take over from the high street as the first port of call for consumers. The acceleration of investment by companies looking to expand that aspect of their business clearly demonstrates this. It will also consistently be argued that big ticket items such as cars must always have some degree of physical interactivity from buyers before a buying decision is finally made.

When a company like Tesco flexes its considerable financial muscle and enters the game, albeit in a quiet, understated way, this shows that they are interested enough to find out whether they can use their mighty brand to convince customers that buying used cars online from start to finish is a) a good idea and b) likely to achieve a profitable section of their business. Of course at the same time they will want to protect their brand by continuing to delight their customers.

Very successful online marketers like Amazon have demonstrated there are many products us consumers will happily buy online as long as they have the confidence that they are getting fantastic value for money and a first class service to match. However noone has yet as completely convinced us that this can be replicated with products like cars costing thousands of pounds.

The process of gathering information, researching the pros and cons of different models and even the introduction of businesses publishing their customer satisfaction scores online, will all add to consumer confidence but will it totally replace the process of trying, testing, touching and driving?

let’s face it, and here’s where I think many promoters of online car buying miss the point, it is the actual process of deciding you want to buy a car, doing the research, narrowing down the criteria, understanding your budget, how the car will be funded, trying different models and comparing which is all part of the process which sets it apart from buying books or iPads which will generally be bought on line if there is a price advantage.

Although there will be many buyers who will love the price advantage of buying a car from an online source which has a lower cost base, there will be 100 more who just won’t fell the excitement of clicking a mouse and then being told where to collect their new car no matter how simple the process or fantastic the service is. The main reason is that it really is and always will be an emotional purchase for most buyers and the best dealers can hope for is that there is so much quality information and expert opinion that the decision making process can be speeded up as a result.

If the dealers get the last part of it right – the customer interaction in the showroom – then they will have done as much as they can to market themselves and their products in a way which increases the number of buyers rather than triers in their showroom.

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