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2018 – The Year UK Car Sales Take Off Online

How many physical things can you think of that you can’t buy online (without speaking to anyone)? Probably just two – a house and a car (excluding ebay).


2018 has been tipped to be the year that all changes in the automotive industry. According to industry leaders, dealerships are within a year of being able to complete an entire vehicle transaction online. That includes pitching finance and insurance products and getting electronic signatures on key documents. There are even online leasing apps popping up, too.

Previously, high value purchases mostly took place in a physical location, but increasingly, consumers have used physical stores as showrooms for their online purchases. They look, they browse, they feel – only to leave the store and ultimately complete their purchase online.

This trend began with clothes and gradually became the norm with increasingly more expensive and complex purchases such as phones, laptops, TVs (which can both be bought online and with finance organised online). Now, things have gone up another gear and it’s the time car dealerships get themselves involved.


Not sure there’s demand for buying a car start-to-finish online?


According to the Financial Times, China’s online automobile transactions in 2016 hit 1m units, worth Rmb100.7bn ($15bn), according to Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy. To put that in perspective, vendors almost sold more cars online in China last year than they sold in Spain all together.

The value of China’s online automobile transactions have grown at a compound annual rate of 65.5 per cent in the 2012-16 period, according to Frost & Sullivan, versus 13.7% growth for China’s wider vehicle market.

Mini, the British luxury car brand owned by German automaker BMW, sold 1,600 cars in China online in the two years to the end of October 2017. That compares to none for the US and its home market, the UK. 



In 2018, it’s likely that the first few brands and dealerships will begin launching an end-to-end car buying journey online. So how should dealerships prepare?


  • In-dealership: Within the dealership, expect to deliver a full showroom experience. It’s likely that consumers will come in to browse the range, compare interiors and other options with a view to make their final decision online. Equally, as in China, dealerships will be the place online orders are picked up from. Make the in-store delivery process one to remember as this will become part of the aftersales journey.
  • Online: It’s important that the in-dealership and online experiences match. Both must be on-brand. Customisation and personalisation of the online purchase experience must be best-in-class. This could be the highest value online purchase a customer ever makes – and so experience is key. Equally, dealers must have the mechanisms in place to convert online leads to customers.
  • Marketing: Your marketing and communications will be what ties your online and in-store experience together seamlessly. Physical marketing communications (direct mail, brochures, events and in-dealership materials) and online marketing communications (email, SMS, app pop-ups, website UX, paid advertising, re-marketing) must all run seamlessly together as part of a cross-channel campaign that reaches your customer across the right platforms at the right times. This will boost your chances of converting and keeping your customers.


At AG Automotive, we specialise in helping automotive businesses deliver personalised, data-driven, automated marketing campaigns and initiatives to improve lead generation. To find out more, visit:


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