The Internet has already changed the way we car shop. Consumers are spending more time online researching cars, and less time at dealerships (1.4 showroom visits on average). At Tred we certainly see a trend of customers getting deeper in the funnel before visiting the dealership. Given these trends, how will the car buying process change in the next five years?
A recent study suggested that 5% of all cars will be sold online by 2020. Car companies are already starting to sell cars online, but the challenge is in creating a seamless online and offline experience, since cars are sensory products that typically need to be touched and driven. A related trend is car companies creating branded digital retail stores in urban centers– combining the living and working environment with the automotive experience (sound familiar, Tesla?).
Audi, in particular is ahead of the curve, having opened digital showrooms in London and Beijing. The customer can digitally create and configure a vehicle as they watch it come to life. For London Audi City, this approach has increased new car sales by 60-70%, and delving further, 75% of the orders were placed by first time Audi buyers. It’s estimated that car makers will open about 100 of these flagship city-center stores globally by the end of the decade. The idea being a one-stop shop, aimed at providing a unique brand experience. But will the focus of these retail stores be to create a positive brand experience, or to sell cars?
Nowadays, consumers walk into dealerships prepared, informed, having done their homework. Therefore, the role of the dealer as an informational source might be waning. Will city-center car stores prevail to showcase and create brand awareness early on in the shopping process, and if so, how will traditional retailers adapt to bridge the experience from virtual reality to the actual purchase seamlessly?
Read more about the future of automotive retailing on Forbes.com.