Since the first online retailers opened their digital doors in 1994, online shopping has fundamentally changed how North Americans purchase goods. As the Internet has become ubiquitous, personal devices like the smartphone have made the online shopping experience more and more seamless and led to the rise and downfall of entire sectors of the retail economy. They have also reshaped consumer expectations. Where once shopping was an involved and tactile experience that meant visiting retail outlets and comparing between products, shoppers now expect to be able to browse and purchase most of what they need from online retail sites.
How Online Shopping Is Changing The Way We Buy Cars
While the automotive industry hasn’t been as hard hit by retail shopping as other sectors, online shopping has led to shifts in how people buy cars as well. Here are just a few of the ways the Internet is changing the car industry:
Research Is Now Done Almost Exclusively Online
The data is in, and it is incontrovertible: the overwhelming majority of modern shoppers do most of their research online before ever setting foot on a dealership floor. With huge amounts of information available to any potential buyer online, today’s consumer is more informed and more judicious, and they are less likely to be taken in by flashy advertising.
Digital Marketplaces Provide New Ways To Shop
Though most shoppers still purchase their car in person from a dealership or used car lot, a whole new way to shop for cars is already emerging thanks to websites like Kijiji Autos which specialize in connecting buyers with sellers online. The main benefit of these kinds of digital marketplaces is that they allow shoppers to search by the features they value most at the price point that works best for them, which means they can quickly sift through the vast number of vehicles available to find the one that meets their needs best.
Online Search Features Are Upending Traditional Shopping Habits
It has been frequently noted that the shopping habits of Millennials are very different from those of their parents and grandparents, and at least some of the changes can be attributed to how shopping online changes the way consumers think about products. For example, Millennials tend to be much less focussed on brand and more focussed on features, because they are used to searching for the particular things they want.
For example, if a younger shopper wants a specific type of vehicle within a specific price range, they are more likely to pick the best option that appears within those parameters. This means they will easily consider jumping from brand to brand, and tend to make comparisons based on the values that matter most to them. Automakers who want to attract their business need to be very clear about the benefits they offer vis-à-vis the competition.
While a future in which we shop for cars the way we shop for books or appliances is still some way off, it is clear that online shopping has already had a massive impact on consumer habits and priorities. With more and more new young buyers entering the automotive market who don’t have any conception of a world before the Internet, the car business is going to become more forward thinking and innovative — whether it wants to or not.