When was the last time you used a fax machine, played a VHS or listened to music on a cassette?
Technological developments over the last few decades have been fast-paced and have taken no prisoners. The list of companies that have fallen foul to the pace of technological change includes huge names such as Blackberry, Kodak and Blockbuster. With this in mind, it is incredibly important for the motor trade industry to be on the pulse of these changes.
A recent survey commissioned by automotive data and valuations expert HPI, found that 81% of 25 to 34 year olds would consider purchasing a car through an app. Fernando Garcia, consumer expert at HPI, commented “virtually all car manufacturers have an approved used scheme in place that allows consumers to buy a used car with a long warranty, often providing the same peace of mind as when purchasing a new car”. Placing this within the classic world, you can see how well-established names could capitalise on this trust to increase purchases made online.
However, 71% of those aged 65 and above said that they would never consider buying a new car online. The most common reason given for the reticence to buy online, was a desire to see the car in person – so all is not lost for the dealership.
While a large proportion of society may never consider buying a car online, many people’s first step when considering purchasing a car is doing some research online. James Baggott in CarDealer magazine reports that the car-buying cycle can last more than two years before a customer walks into a showroom to buy a vehicle. During that time the customer is researching online: watching videos, reading reviews and listening to influencers on social media. At this point, Baggot comments, motor traders need to be informing, persuading and interacting with customers online to ensure that it will be their showroom that the customer will walk into.
This doesn’t mean that the dealership can’t play an important part in this customer journey though. Rebecca Chaplin, Blackball Media’s head of editorial, writes in CarDealer magazine that “a forecourt is an important part of marketing a car, or at least the dealership itself, and building trust with customers”. Chaplin observes that, in fact, the best car dealership websites build into their site key elements from their physical dealership. For instance, you can often read about the sales team, watch videos from them and even follow them on social media. Many dealership sites will also include photos of their premises, 360-degree walk throughs and even video tours. So rather than websites replacing a dealership, the two mediums work together to enhance the experience of each.
What does this mean specifically for classic car dealerships? There will still, and perhaps will always be, many people who enjoy coming into the dealership to view the cars and haggle face to face. Having said that, the classic vehicle customer of the future will be one who is used to buying their weekly grocery shop using an app and buying a washing machine at the click of a button. Therefore, it’s important that dealerships create a blended approach that can accommodate this growing customer base in the future.
In May, Google previewed Duplex, an incredibly life-like AI assistant. Simply ask Duplex to book an appointment for a test drive for you and it will ring the dealer and have a conversation with the real person at the end of the phone.
Personal contact in this evolving digital world is becoming more and more infrequent, and while the age of robots calling robots is probably a way off yet, being able to communicate digitally with customers is here and now.
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