New Data Shows Trend Changes in Online Car Buying During the Pandemic

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Automotive ecommerce solution provider, GForces, has released a series of key findings obtained through its NetDirector Auto-e digital platform, revealing how online car purchase behaviour has changed dramatically during the global pandemic.

“As with many other industries, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to online, in a very traditional automotive sales market which was ripe for disruption,” explains Tim Smith, Chief Commercial Officer at GForces. “The insights we’re sharing today clearly show that customer trust levels when using digital technology are increasing daily, as is their willingness to make large ticket purchases, such as cars, online. Naturally, they have appreciated the ease and simplicity, not to mention the personal safety, that e-commerce brings, particularly in these uncertain COVID-19 times.

“However, what is interesting with the car industry is that we firmly believe there was latent demand there all along. Often the missing key ingredient was the lack of easy-to-use, seamless systems for consumers to interact and transact with. The pandemic has been the catalyst for change and we are proud to have supported so many of our customers in adapting to the rapidly evolving automotive retail landscape. Online car buying is no longer just a trend, it is fast becoming the new normal for sourcing your next car.”

The GForces data reveals that the number of cars sold online in 2020 using its technology rose 1228%, increasing from just 2,199 in 2019 to 29,209 last year, worth over £500 million overall.

The figures for pre-and during lockdown also underline the growing importance of e-commerce, particularly for online car sales. Between January and March 2020, the number of new and used cars purchased online using GForces technology averaged 640 transactions per month. In April and May, the first full lockdown months, the numbers soared, more than quadrupling to 2,675 per month. Once again, the same picture emerged when the UK entered its second lockdown. In November 2020, online sales surged by 33% compared with the previous month.

There has also been an increase in demand across the north of Britain that has seen Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow overtake London as hotspots for internet car buying, the online car supermarket BuyaCar.co.uk has revealed.

While historically demand has most often been concentrated in and around the capital – boosted by London’s concentration of younger ‘internet savvy’ car buyers – the trend appears to be spreading across the rest of Britain.

During 2020 the top 10 postcode locations – based on sales per thousand residents – were all in London and the neighbouring counties of Kent, Surrey and Essex. But so far this year that pattern has been replaced by a surge in demand as far afield as North Wales, Shropshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the North West, County Durham and Scotland.

Known as ‘sales per capita’ the measure of demand based on the population of an area reveals that Llandudno in west Wales is now well ahead of the traditionally bigger markets of many London boroughs, while enquiries are surging particularly in Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow.

Christofer Lloyd, Editor of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “We are seeing a very different pattern in sales and enquiries compared to the pre-Covid years, doubtless driven at least partly by changes to the car market caused by anti-coronavirus measures.

“Historically, we always saw deliveries concentrated in and around the capital and across more far-flung rural areas, where physically shopping for cars is less convenient than in urban areas. But that is certainly changing as sales growth is distributed more widely across the north of Britain.

“These latest figures continue adding weight to the belief that not only has the coronavirus crisis is continuing to change the whole shape of the online car market.”

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