Customers continue to use the Web to research vehicles, and trends show that many are ready to take the next step. Industry analysts predict that customers will become more comfortable buying and financing vehicles through the Web over the next few years.
Capgemini’s ninth annual automotive study, Cars Online 07/08, reveals that 80 percent of those surveyed now use the Web for vehicle research. Consumer-to-consumer sites, such as blogs, social-networking sites and Web forums, have seen an 8-percent growth in visitors researching vehicles to 29 percent. Seventy-eight percent of respondents utilize search engines, 70 percent visit manufacturer Web sites and 51 percent visit dealer Web sites in their vehicle research.
Studies also show that customers are using the Web to initiate their communication with dealers. According to a March 2007 outsell.com iBase Survey, 91.4 percent of consumers say they will search online, and 82.5 percent will submit a request via phone or e-mail prior to coming into an actual dealership to purchase a vehicle.
Customers are increasingly comfortable using the Internet to purchase computers and electronics. There is also a growing market for online vehicle purchases. According to Cars Online 07/08, in 2001, only 2 percent of customers considered the Web as a channel to purchase vehicles. In the most recent study, 20 percent said they were likely or very likely to buy a vehicle online.
Customers have also changed how they research and apply for financing online. The J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study has found that since 2004, a smaller proportion of customers are accessing the Internet to research their finance options. However, among those customers researching financing options online, a larger proportion is increasing their online application activity. According to J.D. Power and Associates, this trend suggests that buyer behavior of online financing is evolving.
The J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study also reveals that fewer casual shoppers are using the Internet simply to browse for information about their financing options. Instead, more serious and Internet-savvy customers are using this channel to access specific information about their finance options and then proceeding to apply online for a loan. This trend suggests that customers are feeling more comfortable with sharing their personal information online via these provider channels and may also prefer the convenience aspects that the Internet brings, according to J.D. Power and Associates.