Online marketplaces have become a favourite today with shoppers, especially for apparel, white goods and kitchen appliances. But what about something like automotives? Are customers ready to make the transition from brick and mortar dealers to the Internet? Can they just put the car of their dreams in a shopping cart and pay for it with a credit card?
Outside India, large e-commerce portals like eBay and Overstock, along with third-party auto sites like Autotrader, Carsoup and Greatcars have already got into the business of selling automotives online and are doing reasonably well. But India is yet to witness customers making a beeline for online marketplaces. However, a gradual shift towards these e-commerce portals is being noticed in the substantial use of Internet made by the customers before making a car purchase today.
Customers are usually looking for two kinds of information online before making their way to the dealers. They want to know all about the exact specifications of the vehicle as well as the competitive price points. As an additional input, they also look for possible buyer reviews. Trying to fulfil these expectations, auto sites provide detailed information about the car model and colours along with the down-payment and EMI too. And armed with this info, online shoppers usually zero in on the model they want and make their way to the stores to seal the deal. Pre-sales interactions through email and internet chats also help the customer and in turn, they take very little time at the store to make the purchase.
Thus Internet not only helps the customers but it also helps dealers. They do most of their market research online, use web analytics to study the customer preferences and manage their on-site inventory. There is seamless integration between the online and offline businesses. In fact, the internet is gradually taking over the automotive trading process with both the buyers and sellers recognising the potential of online transactions in the new-car and used-car sectors. And this change can be attributed to three major reasons.
Customer behaviour – The modern customer wants everything at his fingertips. With mobile technology and social media having a significant influence on communication, the sales and service process is getting digitised and most industries are now making trendsetting changes in their online retail formats. Automotive industry also has to follow suit.
Sophisticated technology – With vehicles and their technology getting more and more complex, it is getting difficult for sales and service staff to update themselves and meet the growing expectations of the informed customer. This level of sophistication can however, be easily met online.
Rising competition – With competition getting fierce, it is getting tough for dealers to justify their traditional business model and maintain their financial stability. Online marketplaces seem to be the perfect route in this situation.
However, presently customers still rely on buying from physical dealer outlets. For one, they want to have a look at the vehicle which will be one of their major investments and take the all-necessary test-drive. Secondly, they look for expert advice about purchasing additional equipment and insurance and financing options. Finally, customers value the personal relationship with the dealers for future services. This is especially true for the used car market as the customer wants to have a good understanding of the condition of the vehicle. However, trusted sites like Truebil.com combine the best of both worlds. Search and research online, followed by an offline purchase, is what these sites offer.
Perfect synchronisation of the online and offline formats with complete integration of both formats to the retail network is what the automotive market is looking forward to right now. Increased transparency will force transactions to move online, resulting in a convenient end-to-end buying experience.