Online or in the showroom – the dilemma facing car dealers

Car dealers are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of buyers shunning their showrooms for online platforms.

Many are now increasing investment in their websites to meet the growing demand, while even more have spent money on social media channels and digital tools, such as finance calculators.

Others have been offering virtual tours of their showrooms and forecourts.

The concerns were highlighted in a dealer survey by Close Brothers Motor Finance in which 16 per cent of them said they feared buyers will even turn to the likes of eBay and Facebook.

Even those buying in person research online first

The good news for them is that, while online buying has accelerated, further research from the Britain Under the Bonnet report found that drivers are not quite ready to take the full leap with buying a new car online.

Instead, motorists say they use digital channels to research vehicle choices, dealerships, and finance options. Just, one in eight drivers said they would feel comfortable buying a car online without seeing it first.

Seán Kemple, Managing Director of Close Brothers Motor Finance felt the switch was inevitable.

“The car buying experience continues to adapt to the technological advances being made across the sector,” he said. “After a tough year, which saw showrooms close their doors, potential buyers had no alternative than to research and purchase their car online or hold out until restrictions had been lifted. As such, the online trend is here to stay.

“Even of those who prefer to buy in person, many will still do their research before stepping on to a forecourt. And this can give dealers an advantage to reach more potential customers. So the value of dealer advice and insight both via digital channels and in person is significant and could lead to more sales.

“As well as having an accessible and up-to-date digital forecourt, the savviest dealers have been making the most of software and tools to engage with their customers through every stage of the car-buying process.”