Digital has revolutionized the way business is conducted across industries. From banking to insurance, retail, publishing, consumer durables, and even grocery shopping, there’s not a single business left untouched by digitization. And the automotive industry is no exception.

The changes are multi-fold. The first level of changes is of course in the products themselves. The standard 2/4-wheeler today boasts of features we only saw in movies earlier. From the humble Maruti 800 of the ‘80s that was all manual to the electric cars of today, the cars we drive have themselves gone through a complete metamorphosis, delighting customers across all price points.

The second impact of digitalization is in the way cars are marketed, presented and sold. This is especially important in today’s world where the consumer is used to getting everything at the click of a button. The sheer convenience of online transactions and the easy availability of information and reviews online has revolutionized the way potential buyers research for their dream car and buy it.

E-tailing in Automotive Industry

Car dealerships have changed the basic ground rule of their existence – instead of the customer coming to them, they are going to meet the customer at a location of their choice. Flagship stores still exist, but many are going for digital retail stores only, especially for newer models. And for pre-owned cars, online has now become the norm rather than the exception.

The shift started quite recently. Till about a decade back, e-tailing in this industry was unheard of. However, as brick and mortar stores across consumer good companies started giving way to e-commerce, the auto industry finally woke up and realised they were doomed to a similar fate. If not immediately, then definitely in the near future. And even though just about 5% of cars globally are sold online, manufacturers have started paying heed to the growing clamor in the market. Outside India, most large car companies have started selling their models online. And in India, some have started following suit.

Pre-owned cars and E-commerce

The used car market in India has been growing by leaps and bounds. According to Ken Research’s latest publication findings, the pre-owned car space will record a GMV of 45 billion by FY2020. A large chunk of this will be led by online players.

There is a definite advantage in buying pre-owned cars online. The basic information needed for a pre-owned car is available at the click of a button, so are photos. Buyer reviews for the platform, research on the car of choice and its comparative study with others in the same price point – it’s all readily available. Hence, making the final decision is easier and faster.

What does this mean for car salesmen?

While it’s definitely premature to say that car salesmen are redundant in the age of ecommerce, it’s a fact that the advent of online platforms heralds a revolution in the way the sale is done.

No longer is it enough for car salesmen to just know the details of the car they are selling; they must have all relevant information available with them. That includes specifications of their own car, comparative study with other cars, data on what else can be bought at the same price etc. The salesmen also need to have tools at their disposal which help the customer make a decision as soon as possible. In short, the salesmen need to be human replicas of the website they are competing with! A tall order, indeed!

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