Car Dealer Live

Growth in end-to-end online sales slowing but more jobs being completed digitally before forecourt visit

  • Auto Trader to focus on connecting online-offline experience to meet growing demand for omni-channel retailing
  • End-to-end online car sales rocketed during the pandemic, but have since slowed down
  • Research by Auto Trader shows many buyers intend to visit only one forecourt when purchasing
  • Auto Trader director Catherine Faiers chats exclusively to Car Dealer

Time 12:38 pm, November 9, 2022

The growth in the number of people choosing to purchase their car entirely online is slowing.

Speaking on Car Dealer Live, Auto Trader’s chief operating officer Catherine Faiers said the classified car advertising giant had seen a slow-down in the number of buyers choosing to purchase cars completely online.

‘We’re definitely seeing consumers saying that they want to do more of the car buying jobs online,’ she explained in the video which you can watch at the top of this story.

‘They [customers] want to have completed a finance application and reserve the car online – those jobs that they might have done at a forecourt.

‘But we’re equally hearing many consumers really value a forecourt experience, and they really value completing some of those jobs in person, whether it’s a test drive, or inspecting the vehicle.

‘We’ve also seen in the last few months a slowing in the growth rate of cars being sold entirely online – an end-to-end transaction.

‘We did see significant growth during the pandemic, but that growth rate has slowed and stabilised in the last few months.’

Faiers added that purely online car sales still represent ‘low single digits’ for dealers.

But while customers are preferring the in-person dealership experience, the number of dealers buyers visit before purchasing their car has reduced considerably.

‘We recently conducted a big bit of research where we put lots of researchers on retailers’ forecourt, and we asked buyers about the journey that they’ve been on and how they ended up on that forecourt,’ she explained.

‘Many of those consumers were highly informed and they were ready to buy, so they had spent a lot of time doing their research and narrowing down to a specific vehicle, understanding the finance options, and had been fully ready to buy by the time they arrived on the forecourt.

‘Most of them were telling us that they only plan to visit only one forecourt – and that forecourt visit would be to buy that vehicle. That is very different from what we were seeing.

‘Prior to the pandemic, we were seeing consumers visiting more forecourts, shop around more, and being less well informed.

‘So, buying behaviour has changed but the change hasn’t been to everyone doing this end-to-end checkout journey.’

She added: ‘For us, the future is very much connected or omni-channel retailing where buyers are completing more jobs online and then move to the forecourt at any stage in that journey when they want some support or wants to see or test drive or inspect the car.

‘And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our digital retailing strategy – enable an online car-buying journey on Auto Trader, but absolutely hand over to the retailer and the forecourt at any point in that consumer journey, for the retailer to do the great customer experience and great customer service job that they deliver.’

In a wide-ranging interview, Faiers also discussed:

  • Auto Trader’s future plans
  • What dealers should be concentrating on
  • Predictions for the rest of 2022

You can watch the full interview by clicking the video at the top of this story

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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