The distance customers are prepared to buy their next car has increased ‘significantly’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, says Auto Trader.
The firm says the trend not only highlights the large opportunities on offer for dealers who have embraced online retailing, but also one that’s set to continue as more consumers feel more confident transacting online.
Auto Trader data shows prior to Covid-19, the average distance between buyer and seller was around 40 miles.
However, the restrictions and the subsequent acceleration in digital retailing trends has driven a change in consumer behaviour.
During the latest national lockdowns when physical forecourts were closed, the average distance spiked to 60 miles.
Although this has dipped slightly since the reopening of physical showrooms in April to circa 50 miles, it marks a 25 per cent increase on the pre-pandemic average, said Auto Trader.
The company added that car buyers are continuing to feel more comfortable purchasing online thanks to dealers adapting their retail models by offering money back guarantees, for example.
Research conducted by Auto Trader earlier this year revealed that nearly two thirds (62 per cent) would be open to buying a car without a test drive if they were offered a 14-day money back guarantee.
The trend for long distance buying and the opportunity it presents was further highlighted by separate research conducted in May.
It revealed that 46 per cent of consumers are currently willing to buy from a retailer based over 50 miles away.
More than one in five (21 per cent) were prepared to buy up to 100 miles from their home, 10 per cent up to 200 miles, and 16 per cent over 200 miles.
Auto Trader’s director of commercial products, Karolina Edwards-Smajda, said: ‘As online retailing becomes ever more prevalent and consumer confidence grows, the geographical distance between buyers and sellers is set to become less relevant.
‘It represents a huge opportunity for retailers who can reach beyond their local market, whether that’s through click and collect or home delivery.
‘Embracing these services means all retailers can compete with the online entrants who operate nationwide and invest heavily in national marketing campaigns.
‘We’re committed to supporting our retailer partners in their digital retailing ambitions and providing them with the tools and expertise they need to capitalise on changing consumer demands.’
Auto Trader is set to roll out a suite of online retailing products throughout H2 2021, including a market extension tool designed to extend retailer’s reach into additional geographical regions to target new customers.