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70% car buyers say VR videos would convince them to buy without test drive: Google Kantar report

The report looks at the digital influence on Indian automobile buyers and the opportunities for the industries.

Google India and Kantar has just released the findings of the ‘Auto Gear Shift India 2020’ report that looks at the digital influence on Indian automobile buyers and the opportunities for the industries. The comprehensive study focuses on the change in the (consumer) journey of new car buyers, two-wheeler buyers, and used car buyers and sellers in India. It captures consumer behaviours across segments, like hatchback, sedan, SUV, scooters, entry bikes, deluxe bikes, premium bikes and used cars, with inputs from unorganised and organised dealers.

The report calls out the digital transformation that is underway in the auto industry, as the consumer purchase journey is changing across the country. With the consumer placing a much higher importance on online and digital channels, search engines, online videos and dealer’s websites have become the three most important touch points (for the buyers), leaving behind traditional media platforms.

Internet is an indispensable research source

● Over 90 per cent of the buyers research online (95 per cent of new car buyers, 94 per cent of used car buyers and 90 per cent of two-wheeler buyers).

● Over 90 per cent of new and used car buyers, and 81 per cent two-wheeler buyers rely on search engines to read vehicle reviews and get access to information on aggregators websites.

● With online video growth in the country, YouTube has emerged as a critical platform for buyers to find independent and credible videos that solve their queries.

(Ninety-five per cent of new car buyers, 89 per cent of used car buyers, 87 per cent of used car sellers and 90 per cent of two-wheeler buyers.)

Diving further into the influence of online videos, the report finds that videos act as ‘buyers’ consulting zones. Online video plays a significant role in the purchase journey of an automobile shopper, with nine out of 10 buyers doing one follow-up action triggered by the video.

It allows buyers to experience cars and two-wheelers from different and unique angles, such as vehicle features, design (walk-around interior, features and technology), in-action (vehicle safety tests, VR content, performance videos), reviews and ads (testimonials, third-party reviews or comparison tests). Sellers who sell through organised channels in Tier-II and III cities use more videos.

Automobile shoppers go online to find their dealers

As digital becomes the primary touch point for prospective buyers, automobile brands and dealerships have heightened their online presence to be a part of the consumer’s car-purchasing journey. The report states that 72 per cent of new car buyers, 70 per cent of used car buyers, 70 per cent of used car sellers and 54 per cent of two-wheeler buyers searched for dealership online.

Commenting on the report, Nikhil Bansal, head of industry - auto, Google India, said, “The auto industry is undergoing a digital transformation and many leading brands have already digitised their consumer touch points. With the consumer preferences shifting to digital across categories, we will see more brands find new ways to engage consumers on digital platforms."

"The report also captures that the duration between research and final decision making has become short, with easy access to information online. This makes it even more important for auto brands to create richer experiences and content that allow buyers to not just get information, but also get an immersive brand experience to engage and influence their decision,” he adds.

The report also states that the window of being influenced and final decision making is short. While 85 per cent of new car buyers and 92 per cent used car buyers decide within two months, about 91 per cent of Tier-II buyers took almost two months. Ninety-five per cent of two-wheeler buyers decide within two months.

New consumer trends to watch out for:

Buying car online

Searches for “buy car online” emerged for the first time amidst COVID-19, indicating a huge shift in consumers' expectations from brands. This was also reflected in the offline research, with more consumers willing to purchase an automobile online, rather than going to the dealer showroom. Fifty-four per cent of new car buyers would consider buying online if given the option, as compared to 44 per cent two years back.

Immersive 360-degree video’s and virtual reality (VR) could replace test drives. Seventy per cent of car buyers and 60 per cent of two-wheeler buyers agreed that 360-degree videos or VR videos would probably convince them to buy cars without a test drive.

Consumers are willing to pay more for connected technology and personalisation

Fifty-four per cent of new car buyers are willing to pay for “connected” technology in their vehicle, with (almost 82 per cent) hatchback buyers, (79 per cent) sedan buyers and (85 per cent) SUV buyers likely to pay premium.

More consumers want personalisation options, with 50 per cent of new cars and two-wheeler buyers using car configurators, before purchase.

About the survey: It was an extensive survey of 2,000 respondents covering 17 cities from Tier-I, II and III areas. While the respondent base was across male and female, in the age groups of 18-40 years. The respondents were chosen based on their access to the Internet.