Only a decade ago, the prospect of making any major purchase online was practically inconceivable. Online shopping was almost entirely reserved for smaller purchases — clothing, shoes, and simple electronics. Largely due to consumers’ hesitation to put too much trust in online retailers, buying “sight unseen,” the concept of not only researching but ultimately purchasing higher ticket items seemed far-fetched at best and irresponsible at worst.
Fast forward to the modern digital landscape. It’s not just tech-savvy millennials making major purchases online — even Generation X and Baby Boomers are beginning to jump on the e-commerce bandwagon, shopping for appliances, mattresses, and even homes with little more than the click of a button. While retailers used to overcome customer hesitation by building relationships (and consequently trust) in-store, modern consumers are finally coming around to the concept of researching and purchasing high-ticket items online. Especially as online retailers introduce perks like same-day delivery and no-hassle returns, they may even prefer it.
In the United States, which boasts the second largest auto industry in the world, the shift toward making bigger purchases online begs the question: What does this mean for the future of the automotive industry? Car designers and manufacturers have long relied on the physical driving experience to convince buyers to take the plunge on this major purchase — first with the dealership experience and then the test drive itself.
That’s changing quickly, though, as consumers begin to demand faster, more intuitive, and wholly digital alternatives that resemble the seamless digital purchase experiences they’ve become accustomed to.