Something unlikely to sit well with petrolheads but, hardly unexpected in these days of rapidly depersonalising life with automation; enter the virtual test drive for new car buyers.
Though recent circumstances have given rise to online sales platforms, a digital revolution in terms of how the public researches and acquires goods was well underway before lockdown measures affected buying behaviors.
Whether it’s groceries, clothing, homewares or even movie rentals, consumers are gravitating toward more convenient shopping methods. Multi-billion-dollar e-commerce juggernaut Amazon proves the point, and the closure of hundreds of American shopping malls comes as no coincidence. The convenience factor associated with adding physical items to a virtual basket from the comforts of home, and having them materialise at your doorstep shortly afterward has put paid to many traditional bricks and mortar businesses around the world.
While big ticket items such as cars and houses may come with a few extra steps in the buying journey, they are not immune to rapidly evolving purchasing behaviors – at both global and South African levels.
Sandton-based pre-owned car dealership Digi Cars is embracing the transition and has created a digitally-driven buying experience for its customers, to stay ahead of the digital curve.
Digi Cars operates a showroom in Sandton with hundreds of vehicles where traditional tyre-kicking and test drives can happen as usual, but it now also offers a unique digital buying process which customers can use to browse and ‘test drive’ stock from the comfort of home.
The dealership’s recently-launched Livestore platform adds a wealth of extra detail to conventional dealership websites, and affords customers a live, one-on-one digital walkaround and actual test drive, on the road, with a sales executive. The Livestore journey is fully interactive and customers can ask any questions in real time as the video tour and drive happen.
Interested shoppers can schedule a Livestore test drive via the Digi Cars website, and provided the request is made within business hours, contact will be made within 20 minutes. Responses to after-hours requests will be made by 9 am the following morning. After customers advise on a suitable date and time for the event, they are sent a unique link via email or Whatsapp to initiate the experience with a simple click.
“Drastic changes are afoot and if you’re in the automotive retail space, and not looking at adaptation, your days are numbered,”says Digi Cars COO, Ayesha Patel. “Many South African business models have historically been slow to react to the rapidly changing world around us, but we’ve seen the warning signs abroad and we’re thinking on our feet to deliver a next-generation buying journey for car shoppers.
“Shopping for and buying cars is a very traditional and long-standing practice which presents a unique set of challenges for dealerships. Buyers generally want to inspect the expensive goods they’re committing to, and unlike sites such as Amazon or Takealot, a set of photos simply won’t cut it. For us it’s about offering flexible and convenient alternatives to old-fashioned methodologies – whether customers choose to use them or not.”
All available stock is listed online and detailed information about each car allows shoppers to peruse the virtual showroom at their own pace. Like with major online shopping sites, preferred vehicles can be added to a comparison basket for even greater detail, and with a click it’s possible to begin a streamlined buying journey.
A handy financial calculator is another click away and after inputting household budgets the site will help advise on affordability. From there customers can fast track finance applications through all four major banks.
Digi Cars’ team is on call to guide the process at every step via phone, email or Whatsapp, and its qualified finance and insurance (F&I) managers will advise buyers on how to get the best value in the transaction before signing a contract and concluding the deal. Finally the Digi Cars Customer Experience team will explain the delivery process, exchange policy and Consumer Protection Act (CPA) details, before collection at the dealership or delivery direct to your door is arranged.
“Transparency, convenience and a seamless experience are key,” says Patel. “Digital sales channels were not borne out of the pandemic and the inability or reluctance to be in public spaces. They are what consumers want and expect now, and digital sales trends grew alongside the internet. It’s time car dealers caught up and Digi Cars is proud to be at the forefront of the omnichannel sales concept in South Africa.
“We are confident, of course, that e-commerce will not replace the traditional dealership. Online sales will work alongside the conventional showroom model and face-to-face interactions will remain the preferred buying method for many. Digi Cars will continue to cater for all customer preferences, whether it’s in person, online or a mix of the two.”