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The Rise of the Online Car Buyer

As society has grown to depend on the vital role that online marketplaces play in our lives, they’ve also shifted the landscape in which such transactions take place. In the car industry, motorists have increasingly voted with their feet – or perhaps more appropriately, voted with the click of a mouse. New car salespeople, who often have a reputation that precedes them, have turned buyers away from the caryards. Instead, many motorists now conduct at least their first line of research and enquiries online.

Whether it is P2P websites or online classifieds, car buyers now have a range of outlets available to them at the tip of their finger – all without needing to leave their very lounge room. At the same time, consumers also have access to more information than ever before, meaning they are better informed than the shoppers of years prior. In turn, this has meant that motorists have equal footing when it comes to dealing with salespeople.

As a result, the dynamics of the engagement between a buyer and seller have required a shift. Salespeople are now more attuned to the stereotypes that hang over their head and have largely modified their behaviour accordingly. While pushiness and shrewd tactics still exist, by and large things have evolved more towards an effort based approach to sales. That is, a salesperson needs to put in the effort required to quickly build trust and rapport with their prospective customer on the first visit, or said motorist will simply continue their search elsewhere. But has this necessary change come about too late?

The simple answer, is yes. The fact that technology has been the crucial point in redefining the market speaks to the extent of the shortcomings that were prevalent beforehand. On the part of the consumer, these issues while ‘patched over’, are not easily forgotten. There are still trust issues there and many motorists will narrow their search before they meet a salesperson. They will use this as the basis of their ‘targeted’ shopping experience, intending to optimise the transaction.

What’s more, the online car buyer now has added flexibility in the form of customisation. Of course motorists always had the option to include extras or upgrades as part of their purchase, but the integrated and streamlined process now details a level of convenience where all options are clearly presented, including a visual perspective, as separate and detailed offerings.

All said and done, the rise of online marketplaces have not been without issue. In some instances, unlicensed second hand car dealers have been operating from the anonymity of their online username. And when a market opens to participants who have not been vetted, consumers are forgoing many of the protective measures that have been mandated in the industry by regulatory authorities. Therefore, as always, buyers must be prepared to do the necessary research and consider the risks that accompany engaging with those they have not met, and/or cannot verify.

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