Almost 40% of Gen Z car buyers would prefer to transact online, according to new research.
This compares with 13% of Boomers, 20% of Gen X and 28% of Millennials.
The study, from the EY Mobility Consumer Index (MCI), highlights the importance to dealers of having a strong online presence as a growing pool of younger buyers demand digital services.
Online tools for researching a vehicle purchase were seen as an essential and growing part of the purchasing process, with at least 66% of car buyers across all age groups using them to gather information about their purchase.
Martin Cardell, EY Global Mobility Solutions leader, said: “We’re heading into an era of a major rethink as to what this new role of the dealership looks like. With each generation, people are becoming more comfortable buying and researching their vehicles online.
“Dealerships are going to have to adapt to this new reality and their role is going to have to change. The majority of people are still going to want to “kick the tires” and experience the car physically but for how much longer? When it comes to booking test drives, comparing costs and specs, the majority are already happy to do so online.”
While the data does still show that the majority of buyers (57%) intend to buy their next car from a dealer, consumers are increasingly open to using quick and convenient digital tools for at least some parts of the process. Over 60% of EV buyers said that they would be interested in booking a test drive (63%) and working out the price of a new car (61%) online, for example, while 52% would use an online configurator to spec a car.
Cardell added: “Even where so-called ‘digital natives’ are concerned, it’s not a case of either physical or digital, but both. Younger buyers are more inclined to prefer a digitally-enhanced experience, but still seek the reassurance of physical and in-person interactions. We are already seeing automakers already either moving away from the large physical stores or transforming them into experience centres to enhance the customer purchase experience. Dealers and OEMs have already become used to a world where getting a sale is no longer just about having the best product, the smartest sales people and the most competitive deal. Now they will also have to evolve beyond competing for the “wow factor” of who has best online or virtual experience, to who can offer the best customer lifetime experience.”
V12 Motor Finance recently revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of motorists would contact a car dealer for advice on their next car purchase first, before speaking to anyone else. It believes the used car dealer role will not reduce in importance when it comes to online sales and that it would remain relevant.
A What Car? study, carried out last year, found that one in 10 car buyers were ready to transact wholy online.