Choose the model, examine it in every detail perhaps in virtual reality, compare its characteristics, see it take new colors or accessories. Since 2010, when the first platforms of online intermediaries appeared, the process of buying a car has changed at its root today. In between there was the birth of digital dealerships, the explosion of sharing platforms and the approach of car manufacturers to an alternation between physical and digital channels. Not only that: the pandemic has led many manufacturers to accelerate the adoption of digital models.
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The result is a path of inspiration, choice and purchase that now travels on all channels: the car has been searched for – for years now – and bought online, sometimes only online – just think of Tesla – without any visit to the car showroom except for the physical withdrawal of the machine. Because this is how it is used to and also expects a new generation of buyers born and raised digital and mobile first, for which often the software sector of a car is more important than engines and performance.
According to an analysis by Frost & Sullivan, by 2025, six million new vehicles will be sold through online platforms, just like today we buy any item on some marketplace. These are just some of the results of the study signed by Reply and dedicated to the online shopping trends of four wheels.
“Twenty years ago, people used to go to dealerships. Today customers arrive at the point of sale after having carried out several online searches and perhaps after having requested more quotes, ready for the test drive »confirms Filippo Rizzante, Reply’s chief technology officer. Using its proprietary Trend Sonar trend analysis platform, the group analyzed millions of online sources.
Final objective: to identify the most relevant aspects of e-commerce in the automotive sector. Articles by industry experts, media, patents and scientific publications have come under the lens. What comes out of it?
For example, that exploding trends include second-hand platforms, streaming sales and subscription models. While, among those arriving, some solutions that are still not very popular (such as the recommendations of artificial intelligence systems or the in-depth use of data to identify user preferences) and others that are always rather widespread realities: virtual test drives , finalization of the purchase in a few steps, showroom with 3D technology, remote evaluation of the vehicle to be exchanged and much more.
The trends, summarizes Rizzante, summarize the “digitization of the entire experience of choice, purchase and personalization of the car and the strong drive towards innovation for car manufacturers from the entry on the market of players born on the Aces paradigm (autonomous cars, connected , electric, shared) “. In short, the sector is radically changing its skin: according to Reply, the groups that have recently blossomed are finally capitalizing on the use of native digital solutions and challenging “the old dynamics of power”.
The manufacturers, for their part, are adopting these solutions or carrying the most promising realities in their stomachs. On the other hand, it is the very concept of ownership that changes: just as normal is always finding a shared car near your home, soon it will also be buying a car regardless of the appointment at the showroom. And the complexity of car systems, now devices capable of collecting and sharing an enormous amount of data over the course of their life, opens up new opportunities even in the phase following the purchase.
«For the car, what happened with smart TVs is happening ‘in a big way’ – adds the cto of Reply – today we can choose different apps and extra services compared to traditional use. The houses can collect, respecting privacy, the data coming from the use of cars and related services, enhancing them with benefits for producers, consumers and sales and assistance networks ».
In short, the automotive sector is also consolidating its role in the so-called platform economy: that of services, online shopping, mobile banking, deliveries, augmented furniture and on-demand entertainment.
And above all, the invention of new services based on the needs of users. Technological giants, startups and electric players are in fact focusing on so-called “as-a-service” models, where the car is the center of an ecosystem. In short, the road has been traced and can only continue on this itinerary. Especially when customers of a generation arrive on the market for which even the car can (and must) be purchased from the smartphone with just a few clicks, with a simple digital path, such as shopping at home.
“Young people expect service levels typical of large ecommerce – concludes Rizzante – the car is becoming a service to be customized and shared, with a ‘user experience’ based on the time and preferences of the individual customer”.