Pandemic Habits - The year of digital automotive retail

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 26 May 2021

This year will be the year of automotive digital retail after consumer behavioural changes to buying cars during the 2020 pandemic, according to research by advertising technology company Quantcast. 

The Quantcast APAC Automotive Insights – Consumer purchasing preferences and digital patterns report examines the state-of-play of the region’s automotive industry and how consumer behaviour is influencing the vehicle purchase cycle.

Auto brands and dealerships, with COVID restricting physical travel, had to intimately understand the digital experiences of  consumers browsing and buying from home.

“Some brands are staying ahead of the game by enabling customers to have richer buying experiences entirely online," says Quantcast ANZ head of account management, Jacquelyn Cowardin.

Nissan launched Nissan@Home in December 2020, a digital platform allowing customers to conduct 100% of their purchase online, including test drives and finance.

“This year is just the beginning of what looks like a trend of automotive digital retail rising in the region, with analysts predicting the APAC e-commerce market will hit $34.46 billion by 2026," says Cowardin.

"It is now more important than ever for advertisers to know their customers. Understanding the auto buyer audience and their buying triggers and pathways help to reduce ad spend waste by reaching those most receptive to auto brands and most likely to buy.”

The report identifies five key consumer triggers when purchasing a car:

  1. Value is more important to most of today’s car buyers, even among the more affluent. 
  2. Interest triggers for luxury car buyers include investing, real estate, and family changes.
  3. Younger prospects tend to start researching luxury car brands early on, years before they might be able to buy.
  4. Internet users aged 45+ prefer using laptops and desktop for online research activities, indicating a preference for richer content experiences versus accessing information quickly using a mobile device.
  5. Social distancing measures during COVID-19 as well as health concerns have changed the way consumers shop for vehicles.The auto decision-making process has quickened, with potential buyers booking test drives within shorter time frames than pre-pandemic.

Automotive sales slowed with the onset of COVID-19 but the industry has been recovering, with consumers buying vehicles as they resume travelling.

The report also finds that second-hand car sales and the demand for low-emission vehicles continue to rise, as domestic travel soars across the region. Australians are now paying almost 40% more for used cars than in pre-pandemic 2019.

“We know that today’s car buyer isn’t afraid to do their research, so it’s critical for automotive brands to have established digital paths that give prospective buyers the information they need at every stage of their purchasing journey," says Cowardin.

"Leveraging AI and other technologies that reveal live audience behaviours can help auto brands reach more prospects and stand out from competing brands, while rich media formats create visually exciting digital experiences for people visiting auto sites." 


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