Pandemic has changed used car buyer expectations about online processes, says Startline

08 Apr 2021

Customer expectations about the processes for buying cars online have changed noticeably during the 12 months of the pandemic, Startline Motor Finance is reporting.

The company says that there has been a shift towards assuming facilities offered by dealers will match the speed and convenience of retail processes that are commonly available through retailers in other sectors.


CEO Paul Burgess explained: “This is, to some extent a simplification, but a year ago, most online dealer processes ultimately worked but lacked the speed and overall slickness that you’d see from an Amazon or a John Lewis. There were good reasons for this disparity but by far the most important was the relative complexity of buying a car online compared to, say, a book or a shirt.


“What we have seen happen over the last year has been a closing of that gap. Successive lockdowns have forced dealers into a situation where they have needed to maximise online sales and so a lot of attention has been paid to smoothing and speeding up the processes involved. As a result, some points that were seen as too difficult to easily resolve, such as part exchanges, have been tackled in a concerted manner.


“We’re now in a situation where even quite small dealers can offer extremely competent online processes that include the sale, a p/x facility, finance, aftersales products and delivery, and larger dealers can often do even more.


“Many have now accelerated their online presence to a point where they can compete with almost any digital retail process. Considering the sophistication of the average car buying journey, this is a considerable achievement.”


Paul said that Startline had been part of this development from a motor finance point of view as part of moves from dealers and other introducers to speed up and simplify applications and approvals.


“Almost month-by-month, we’ve seen an increasing impetus to shave more and more time off the online motor finance process. This has produced real and measurable results. The faster and easier the application, the higher the number of deals written.


“The question, going forward, is whether these improved processes will markedly increase the number of people who are willing to buy a car online or simply improve the conversion rate for those who are already willing to do so.


“Our feelings are that this is not yet clear but that it does mean that nearly all dealers are now in much better shape as agile, adaptable, digitally-enabled modern businesses as we emerge from the pandemic. No matter the direction in which the market moves, used car retailers are ready and able.”