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Dealers mustn’t forget digital retailing skills learnt through pandemic despite customer demand remaining strong

  • Dealers must not return to days of primarily focusing on physical customers
  • Retailers need a blend of physical and digital to pull ahead, says Auto Trader
  • Exclusive interview also discusses current macroeconomic factors’ effect on new and used car markets

Time 8:12 am, May 24, 2022

Dealers mustn’t return to the pre-pandemic days of primarily focusing on physical sales, but offer a blend of physical and digital.

That’s the view of Auto Trader. Speaking on Car Dealer Live, its commercial director said dealers are ‘missing a trick’ if they think they can return to the days of just offering a physical experience for the customer.

‘It’s always been an adage of ours and of any successful retailer: you’ve got to make sure your product is visible,’ said Ian Plummer, in the video posted at the top of this story.


‘Your new and used cars need to be well merchandised and as attractive and as head-turning as you can possibly make them.

‘As for longer term trends, retailer and brand partners really need to get on board with digital retailing.

‘We saw how successful retailers were at selling cars when the doors were closed – they had to sell them at a distance and so on.

‘Now they’ve been able to add the wow factor [for the customer] of being able to test drive, touch and see the car. And that blend of the digital and physical experience is what consumers are looking for.


‘If you think that you can just keep them [customers] on the old version of maybe just physical and then don’t embrace that digital need when two-thirds of buyers want to do most of the car buying jobs digitally in some form or another, then you’re missing a trick.

‘You will have a declining audience to go after. Digital is key.’

Continuing to offer a simple digital journey for customers was just one recommendation from Plummer for dealers wanting to pull ahead in a market that is currently experiencing severe pressures.

Electric cars, said Plummer, is an area all dealers need to start switching onto.

When we’ve tracked back data over the last 20-plus years, we’ve never seen a correlation between high inflation rates and the used car market

‘As electric grows, we’ll get to the point in new car terms where it weighs around half of sales by the middle of this decade. If dealers want to get on board with that, now is the time to start,’ he said.

He added: ‘Consumers are looking for help and advice in electric – they want to go down that route.

‘For a retailer, getting ahead of that curve can only put you in a stronger position to benefit from the new and used car sales and even aftersales challenges, but also opportunities that they will give.’

Plummer appeared on Car Dealer Live to discuss how the wider macroeconomic issues are affecting the new and used car markets.

Interestingly, Plummer revealed Auto Trader is still seeing ‘robust’ consumer interest to purchase a new or used car.

He pointed to a survey carried out by the firm last month that showed 80 per cent of car buyers are still as confident in their propensity to afford their next car as they were last year.


But, he admitted, it’s a ‘nuanced picture’ with some customers believing the current cost of living crisis will impact their ‘timeline’ to buy their next vehicle.

Importantly, Plummer said: ‘When we’ve tracked back data over the last 20-plus years, we’ve never seen a correlation between high inflation rates – which is clearly the thing we’re all thinking about at the moment and which is dampening consumer confidence – and the used car market.

‘Consumer confidence was more likely to affect the new car market – but we can’t supply enough of those cars anyway.

‘So, with new cars, it’s probably going to still be ahead of the demand metrics, even if it softens ahead of where the supply can actually even get to.

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‘Overall, not great but not a dramatically negative picture either by any stretch.’

In the interview, Plummer spoke in detail about new and used car supply, used car prices and consumer confidence.

Click the video at the top of this story to watch the full interview

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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