As you probably remember, a few weeks ago it was Mothering Sunday. Of course, as the considerate son I am, I remembered before the weekend and arranged to have some flowers sent accordingly – albeit on the Friday afternoon. This would previously have caused me a few issues to process it in time, or at a push, actually talk to somebody on the phone. Luckily these days we are able to order such items via handy apps or mobile websites conveniently on-the-go, in a matter of moments.
But what about buying a car online or via your phone? Would I, or anybody else, have the same impulsive, flippant attitude to buying a car while sat on the bus as for a birthday present or bunch of flowers?
A number of companies apparently think people will.
Previously there was the announcement by Rockar that it was introducing “a new way to buy a car”, primarily through mainstream UK shopping centre outlets, supported by an interactive website where new cars (exclusively Hyundais) can be bought outright or on finance, including part exchanges. This has been followed up by the news that customers in Japan are now able to buy a BMW i3 through Amazon, in the same way one would browse for and purchase a book or DVD (get yours here).
Although I am certain that both companies mentioned above would do further checks between the online checkout and approving a purchase before delivery, it seems astonishing to me that something that has always been seen as a very significant acquisition is being boiled down to a very transactional, faceless purchase.
Maybe I’m just being old fashioned though. There were probably people who scoffed at the idea of buying clothes online initially, but just look at the success of that industry sector now, with some companies reducing their retail presence on high streets in favour of more cost-effective online marketplaces. It is often said that purchasing a car will be the second biggest purchase in one’s life – behind that of a property – but with the sheer volume of vehicles available now and the functionality required of a car, maybe it is becoming a more prescriptive sales process than before, despite the significant financial outlay.
I am sure that there will always be individuals who care about the car they own on a number of levels, so would never commit such figures on something without inspecting it in advance and brokering a deal. However these days many drivers won’t look at the badge or the colour, or the performance; instead focussing on its ability to take them – and their family – from A to B and back again. This is perhaps especially valid for the city car segment where the practical elements of the car are likely to hold the greatest importance to a driver. These elements are perhaps just as easy to detail in an online listing as they are in a showroom, so maybe there is success to be had by having the ability to sell a car completely online.
Personally, it’s not for me. No matter how much of a car can be shown in black and white, there’s always something else a car will tell you in the metal that no computer (or phone) screen possibly could.