What Car? Insight weekly update – week two

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One in five looking to buy as soon as current lockdown ends

This is the second in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive.

Nurture. Nurture. Nurture. All of our data collected over the past 10 days continues to back up just how important this is going to be for any car maker or retailer that wants to spring out of lockdown.

The truth is that there is business to be done today – and we’re seeing evidence daily from our dealer partners to back this up, although the numbers are far down on the normal market. But given that March was already down just over 44%, we can expect April registrations to be even uglier, due to the practicalities of the lockdown.

However, our data is pointing to a V-shaped bounce for those who have proactively harvested, engaged and managed the in-market car buyer during the crisis. Every week, we take a snapshot of the intentions of car buyers.

Based on the responses of nearly 3000 consumers using What Car? as part of their sales funnel journey from research to finding the right deal last week, almost one in five (18.2%) say they intend to buy immediately after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Furthermore, in support of the fact that people are still trying to buy irrespective of the coronavirus, 3.5% are still looking to complete on deals within the next four weeks. That figure is particularly interesting if we look at what happened in China in February, when the market reversed by 80%. The PSA Group’s UK managing director, Alison Jones, recently admitted they were preparing for the UK to register a similar fall in April. The data suggests the UK might be on a similar downward trajectory for now.

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However, 8% of buyers said they were looking to complete within three months, 15% within six months and 55% during the final quarter of 2020. In other words, consumers are still actively in research mode, and I would argue that many will seek first contact even earlier than normal as they sit at home planning for tomorrow. Yet, to build the funnel, you have to engage. Dealers may be relying on technology and IT platforms to do that, but a more relaxed attitude to responses is just as unadvisable today as it was pre-crisis.

Almost 20% said they plan to buy as soon as the coronavirus lockdown is over

The data tells us that 36% of in-market buyers – those looking to buy across the spectrum of timelines – think it reasonable that a dealer responds to their enquiry within a day. A further 13% are less patient and expect contact within half a day, and 6% want it within an hour.

In total, that means 55% of people looking at their next car today still believe it’s reasonable to have contact with the dealer on the same day during the crisis. Last week, we estimated that only four in 10 dealers had an active virtual lead management process in place. That’s a lot of enquiries being left unanswered.

Online traffic rises again

Page views on whatcar.com were up almost 6% week-on-week last week – a small lift made more significant in light of the long, sunny Easter weekend doing little to encourage web browsing, especially browsing focused on car buying.

However, traffic into reviews continues to be more significantly impacted, running at around half of normal levels. In contrast, traffic to our advice stories – especially concerning ownership and buying queries related to the coronavirus crisis – continues to perform extremely well, running at around 80% up year-on-year.

Activity in our New Car Buying platform showed similar signs of (very) green-shoots recovery for the second consecutive week.

Dealers are selling off our free-to-use platform

Naturally, I’m delighted that more and more dealers and OEMs are opting to use our New Car Buying platform for free until the end of June.

We continue to be realistic about how many consumers are actually buying during the lockdown, but the anecdotes roll in daily – not just of leads, but of sales.

There’s no tie-in period and no charge, so while we hope you like what you find, we will also take you off the system whenever you wish. Of course, we hope you’ll stay with us – but a larger priority for our business now is to both give our users a good experience and do everything we can to get the industry back on its feet.

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For more information:

Call 020 8267 4138 or email support@whatcar.com