Around 90% of car buying steps can be digitized, shows Covid-19 pandemic

The covid-19 pandemic has expedited the emergence of digitalization in the vehicle buying process by introducing several new technologies that reduce
Digital testing of all-electric Porsche Macan using a seat box that recreates the driver’s environment, the display and operating concept.
Digital testing of all-electric Porsche Macan using a seat box that recreates the driver’s environment, the display and operating concept.

The global automobile industry has been witnessing the emergence of megatrends like CASE. Under this, connected vehicles, autonomous driving vehicles, moire vehicular safety and electrification are the trends that are increasing across the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the growth of these megatrends.

(Also Read: Hero MotoCorp launching virtual showroom that you can visit without stepping out)

Besides that, the pandemic and the crisis related to it have fuelled the emergence of several other significant changes in the auto industry. One such major change is the increased focus on digital dealerships or digital vehicle buying process, which is reducing the significance of the conventional mortar and brick showrooms and bringing new technologies to the automobile dealership sector that plays a major role in connecting the automobile industry with the end consumers.

A vehicle buyer roughly goes through multiple key steps while buying a car or a motorcycle or a scooter. As it has been revealed, 90% of a vehicle buying process can be digitized. Not only that, besides the digitalisation, the pandemic is also showing that a couple of key steps can be clubbed as well. Well established automakers in India such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Kia India, Hero MotoCorp have already adopted such strategy.



Before choosing a specific vehicle for buying the consumers usually do extensive research that involves many aspects. With the emergence of the digital era, a large chunk of the research part is attributed to searching online. Besides that, the research process also involves asking for suggestion and experience from friends and family members, checking on social media groups, visiting social media pages or websites of the OEMs, browsing print media advertisements, checking TV and OTT advertisements etc.

Online videos, reviews, comments posted by various influencers or publications play a key role in influencing the buying decision of the consumers. Checking for vehicle loan eligibility and availability and calculating the EMI amount for the vehicle purchase is also a part of the research process before buying the vehicle. This entire research process can be done online using various online tools.


Locating and visiting a dealership

Once the research is done, the automobile brand and specific vehicle model has been selected, the customer uses Google My Business (GMB) tool to locate the nearest dealership of the particular brand to get a product quote. Usually, the consumers visit another dealership as well, just in an attempt to get a better deal. Also, checking the aggregator website for a better quote is another key step many buyers follow.

These processes mix both digital searching and physical appearance. However, in the pandemic era, it has been revealed that one can digitize the entire process. While the searching for dealerships remains completely digital, the physical visit to dealerships can be done digitally as well.

Several automakers are providing AR and VR enabled vehicle checking experience that replicates the physical experience of visiting a dealership. In these cases, after the consumer checks the vehicle's design, features and all other key aspects through the AR and VR technology, the local dealership contacts them.


Taking a test drive

This is something that plays a key role for the buyer to decide whether he or she would opt for that model or not. While the majority of the vehicle consumers love to take a test drive right ahead of finalising the deal, the pandemic and its related issues have imposed restriction on that. The fear of getting infected by going outside and visiting dealerships or taking the test drives are playing a crucial role in the emergence of digital technology in this part.

Many auto companies and dealerships have started offering virtual test drive option to the consumers, which delivers a similar experience to physically drive or ride the vehicle on road. Taking a test drive using AR and VR tools give the consumer a greater sense of the vehicle he or she wants.

However, this could be a tricky part for many as many customers might feel uncomfortable with this and rather opt for conventional touch and feel experience while tasking a test drive. But, it has been proven that this key part can be fully digitized, resulting in the reduction of resources such as time and money alongside lowering the chance of infection.


Taking delivery of the vehicle

This is the last and only part of the entire vehicle buying process, which is impossible to replicate with a digitized version. In an attempt to reduce the risk of infection, several auto manufacturers and dealerships are following the steps like sanitising the vehicle before delivery, contactless delivery etc, while delivering the vehicle to the customer.

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Phygital is the new way

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it evident that the vehicle buying process does not solely rely on mortar and brick dealerships and conventional selling methods. Instead, the majority of the steps can be digitized, which will bring transparency, reduce operational costs for the industry stakeholders, but keep the consumers' vehicle buying journey on the same track.

The end result of this transformation is the phygital dealerships that mix the best of both worlds - physical and digital.

First Published Date: 25 May 2021, 12:42 PM IST

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