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Women at the front of the pandemic led online car purchasing boom

A new research report by Gumtree Cars and Autotrader, Connect with the New Digital Car Buyer, digs into the automotive zeitgeist of the year that was. It shows a change in pace, preferences and a shift in power as a new breed of buyers emerge – with an empowered female cohort front and centre. 

Women in Automotive talks with Monique Cotton of Gumtree Cars to find out more.

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Female first

Sixty-two per cent of buyers begin their car purchasing journey online and women are turning to online classifieds more than ever before with usage up 35 per cent according to the Gumtree Cars report.


“During the past year, retailers, manufacturers and online car websites have had to innovate how they exist online in response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Consumers are better informed when they arrive in dealerships and they are looking at a larger number of brands than ever before as information and comparisons tests make expanding their consideration set easier.


In Q3 2020 alone, there were over 165 million used car searches on Gumtree up 7 per cent on Q2 2020.” says Monique Cotton, Southern & Eastern Regional Manager for Gumtree Cars.


Cotton continues to explain that the greatest barrier to migrating to a purely online purchase remains the desire to physically experience the product – in the metal – which makes the role of dealerships far from over. It’s more important than ever, in fact.


“The modern salesperson now requires skills beyond the vehicle sales experience to be successful.” urges Cotton.


“Interpersonal skills, including effective communication, positive attitude, and strong listening skills are now almost 30 per cent more valuable than sales experience and vehicle knowledge.”


Young millennials forging change


Hyper-digital millennials represent more than one-in-ten buyers. This group is also far more influenced by a strong online presence than a high-end bricks and mortar façade. They are, by nature, innocent disruptors.


The research study also highlights that young female buyers are more likely to consider traditional passenger cars instead of SUVs – which continue to outsell passenger cars – with 53 per cent hunting for a passenger car, compared to just 30 per cent chasing the ubiquitous sport utility vehicle. This is in contrast with the typical (read older) buyer preferences of 41 and 45 per cent in their passenger versus SUV endeavours respectively.


Fear not however, Aussie motorists’ love affair with large lifestyle cars is not wavering. In fact, with the prospect of zero overseas travel holding strong and forcing a switch to local holiday destinations, searches for larger vehicles have increased, according to the Gumtree Cars Q3 Autobarometer Report. Keywords like ‘4WD’ increased by 73 per cent, ‘4x4’ up 71 per cent and ‘SUV’ by 58 per cent in Q3 vs Q2 2020.


Attitudes to new car purchases continue to be largely driven by life stages and lifestyles.



Digital first


While it’s imperative that buyers experience consistency across all touchpoints in a new-car buying journey, online user experience is, essentially, the consumer’s first impression. 


“In order to capture the interest of ‘digital first’ buyers, it is important to have a strong multi-channel presence. Dealers and manufacturers should have a strong online offering that blends seamlessly with the in-person experience. Digital first buyers are keen to digest more relevant information and often welcome face-to-face interaction in the final stage of the purchasing journey.” says Cotton.


“We have found that third-party classified sites remain the most popular and helpful resource for auto intenders across all segments, with 69 per cent of buyers taking this step when searching for their next vehicle, up 5 per cent compared to 2019.”


Gone are the days that a buyer enters a dealership green to the showroom floor opportunities. They are well-informed, finance often pre-approved and arrive with a considered short list of cars.  Hence, the role of the showroom salesperson has changed significantly – consider it the tipping point. In fact, the Gumtree research found that 80 per cent of people will purchase from the first dealership they visit. No pressure.


Also key to sales success was a level of openness, honesty and transparency as noted by 45 per cent of buyers followed by fair prices (42 per cent) and high-quality vehicles (33 per cent).



An optimistic industry adapting


The pandemic of 2020 was the exclamation mark signifying a decade of unfathomable change in the automotive landscape. Fueled by the internet, digital-first appetites, changes to local manufacturing, phasing out of the internal combustion engine, a subsequent flurry of electric vehicle development, supply chain pressures and general buyer behaviour - it has turned the ‘norm’ on its head. But the news is not all bad.


Confirming Australia’s new car market buoyancy, the January FCAI VFACTS report shows an 11.1 percent sales growth, marking the third consecutive month of double-digit sales growth with 79,666 cars leaving showroom floors in January alone. Combine this with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting household savings are at their highest rate for over 25 years and financing rates at a record low, and it feels like the best is yet to come. 


Cotton believes that 2021 represents a great opportunity for dealerships to capitalise on renewed market confidence. It feels like a win-win for both buyers and sellers.

Get the full Connect with the New Digital Car Buyer report from Gumtree Cars and Autotrader below.

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