How tech is transforming the car buyer experience

By Marc Pell, Tempcover CTO 

The various stages of lockdown restrictions across the country have forced the automotive retail industry to completely reinvent its commercial practices by making the shift to digital. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents. What’s more, the same survey found that over half of motorists (57%) believe that a digital purchase journey is beneficial to the consumer.  

Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in-person viewing or road test before buying. 

While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in-person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures. 

Whether through desire or necessity, consumers are becoming increasingly open to the idea of purchasing a used car via a fully-digital experience. This has encouraged industry leaders to employ new technology to react to the shift. 

Cazoo was the first fully-digital platform to enter the vehicle dealership market in late 2019, and there has also been significant investment this year in new entrants such as Cinch and Carwow. Traditional dealerships such as Arnold Clark, Cargiant and Motorpoint have extended the digital aspects of their purchase journeys with services including home delivery and Click and Collect as alternative options to the full show room experience.

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So, how is technology helping those retailers ensure that consumers are having the best possible car buying experience? For one – we know that consumers are using online tools to research used cars more thoroughly than ever before, looking at video content offered by dealerships as well as video content directly from car brands. The most forward-thinking brands are promoting virtual test drives, 360-degree interior views, exterior walkabouts and even VR support for various platforms. The most successful dealerships and manufacturers have also taken steps to ensure that the majority of their content is optimised for mobile. 

Digital shift of motor insurance, as temporary policies are built into the online car purchase journey 

The ongoing decline of physical transactions has presented many larger dealerships with the opportunity to streamline their online purchase process by offering temporary insurance policies as part of the purchase journey. In fact, Tempcover has partnered with several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, to offer temporary driveaway insurance policies that cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days. 

The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends. 

This takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot and provides the driver with near-instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. It’s also an ideal solution while the car is under its money-back warranty, as the driver does not have to commit to an annual policy on a car that might be returned. Another benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy. 

Digital is here to stay 

However long consumers are forced to stay under lockdown restrictions, it’s clear that the digital wing of used car sales is here to stay. Even if the shift to online reverses slightly post-pandemic, the infrastructure that has been put in place over the last six months will continue to benefit consumers in the long run.

Marc Pell

Marc Pell has a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and has been a driving force behind the rise of Tempcover’s tech innovation since 2013. As CTO, Marc oversees the company’s technological strategy, direction and procedures.

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