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Brick v Clicks

Bricks

What’s better; bricks or clicks?

What I mean by bricks or clicks, is, of course, ‘traditional’ shops, or online options for purchases. So, what’s better? I don’t know about you, but my answer would definitely be; “It depends on what I’m buying…”

For example, I’m still an ‘in-person’ food shopper. I like to see, feel and choose the groceries I’m buying, and I also like to reach right to the back of the shelf to get the best date! For some, the idea of going into a supermarket is archaic and fills them with dread (especially now!).

So, what about car buying? What’s better, bricks or clicks?

I thought it’d be helpful to explore some of the pros and cons (in my opinion, and based on my experience!) behind each option to evaluate which option is best and why.

Bricks (Traditional Dealership)

ProsCons
Test drive – especially if it’s a new model I haven’t driven before. I really enjoy the test driving a new car!Time – lack of it! The Dealership experience is always very long. I can easily lose 2 hours of my life going through the standard qualification process, test drive and endless finance options. [FC1] [KT2] 
Colours & options – I like to see the various colour and trim options ‘for real’ rather than just on a screen.The follow-up – the (often) relentless phone calls and emails you get to chase whether you’re “ready to go ahead before the amazing deal ends”.[FC3] 
People & product knowledge – It’s always good to talk to people who are knowledgeable about cars. I value ‘product experts’ who can answer my questions and give me helpful information about the car I’m buying.Being ignored – I’m sorry to say that as a female car buyer, I still experience being ignored completely. Not always of course, but sadly, it does still happen[FC4] , or there’s an expectation that I have limited car knowledge.
 Location – It would be great if I could have a car delivered to me to test drive, rather than me having to visit a Dealership.
 COVID19 – After the trauma of COVID19 and lockdown, I’m still nervous about being in areas with other people, so the thought of a long visit to any shop fills me with dread. I zip in and out of the supermarket in super-quick time, but I’m not in control of the journey in a Dealership.

Clicks (Online-Only Option)

ProsCons
Time – It’s much quicker online compared to sitting in a Dealership for hours.I still enjoy the test drive experience, which you miss with an online only purchase.
Convenience – I can do the online tasks at any time to suit me. I’m not limited by Dealership opening hours.It can be difficult to see true colours online; although I can refuse the car upon delivery if I decide I don’t like the colour.  [FC5] 
No ‘qualification’ needed – I know what model I want and what I can afford. An online process doesn’t make me go through the standard qualification exercise that’s used on every customer.Questions – If I have any questions about a car or a purchase, I can’t always get them answered online, unless there’s a good live chat service of course. 
Control – An online process does not make any assumptions about me, my knowledge of cars, or anything else. I’m in control. 
COVID19 – I don’t have to worry about being alongside other people during an online purchase. 

So, what’s better; bricks or clicks?

I’m afraid I can’t choose! I can’t choose one of them anyway. For me, the ideal would be a joined up, true omni-channel journey. Let me paint you a picture of what this would look like…

  1. Research online – look at, and read about, models, the brand, aftersales support options and user reviews.
  2. Book a test drive online – a specific timed slot.
  3. In person test drive – no further qualification or sales process; just turn up and do the test drive (better still if there was an option for the car to be brought to me rather me going to the car!), and ask any questions I have about the car. It’s always great to talk about cars with other human beings!
  4. Select or build my car – if I’ve bought from this brand before, I expect you to know me and my purchase history. Also suggest add-ons and extras that I might like to consider (like Amazon do!)
  5. Review finance options online – adjust the deposit and term etc until I get a figure that works for me.
  6. Apply for finance online and sign all documents electronically.
  7. Arrange delivery of the car to me at home/work.
  8. Enjoy my new purchase!

And most importantly, I want this entire journey to be seamless between online and in-person. If I start my journey online, then wish to finish it with a Dealership, I’d like to be able to do that; not start at the beginning with the Salesperson.

How would the journey look for you?

I ran a LinkedIn survey recently and 81% of responders said they would prefer a ‘mixed’ journey; a blend of online and in person contact, in order to complete their car purchase. Here’s an article that discusses the results further.

And of course, the recent purchase of Imperial Car Supermarket by Cazoo, further compounds the idea that people don’t want bricks OR clicks; they want a combination that works for them.

The question is, which automotive brands are going to deliver a true omni-channel journey for their customers. Many claim they do already, but my own research has shown this is not really the case. The online portion of the journey is simply a signpost to a Retailer, who picks me up and treats me in the ‘usual Dealership’ way, which isn’t omni-channel and certainly isn’t what I want. It’s also not their fault as most Brands do not provide a true omni-channel solution for them or me to work with.

From a personal perspective, I’m long overdue a new car purchase, so who wants my business and who can provide the journey I’ve detailed above…..?