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Amazon Automotive - What is it and how will this impact the Automotive Industry?

Amazon Automotive - What is it and how will this impact the Automotive Industry?

What is Amazon Automotive?

Late last week (17/11/23), Amazon announced their intentions to sell new cars on the Amazon web platform. In partnership with Hyundai, we assumed the plan was to create a portal within the standard Amazon site where vehicles could be listed and sold.

Initially, given the relationship with Hyundai, this was expected to cause ripples through the traditional dealership networks, who for decades have been the only accepted way to purchase a new vehicle.

How many other manufacturers would follow suit to sell their cars through Amazon?  

However, Amazon has now clarified any car sale will be sold using dealer stock, rather than this inventory being sold by Amazon. 

Why do we care as Digital Marketers?

When looking at other industries, in particular retail, Amazon is heavily embedded within the customer journey. In retail, the research suggests that consumers use Amazon throughout their path to purchase, with a bulk of consumers beginning their journey on Amazon. 

AMAZON AUTOMOTIVE - WHAT IS IT AND HOW WILL THIS IMPACT THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY?

Whilst buying a new car online remains a relatively new venture, the increase in the number of used vehicles being sold has risen considerably over the past years, with Cinch & Cazoo in particular dominating the used car market in the UK.

Similarly, a number of car leasing companies have moved some of their operations online in order to capture the segment of their market who are keen to steer clear of a dealership. 

According to research by “What Car?” only 4.2% of the in-market car buying audience are looking to buy a car without any physical interaction. This is a considerable YoY drop from the 9.7% of the same audience in 2022.

This appears to have been caused by the cost of living rising in the UK, with consumers: 

  • Keen to see the metal of the car they are buying
  • Thinking they can negotiate better deals in person rather than online

Over 30% of car purchases, both new & used, feature an element of lending. Whilst Amazon has the functionality to provide lending, as a broker for Barclays Bank, it is unclear the value to which they would be able to offer personal finance.

This could stifle the ability for Amazon to sell automotive inventory through their own system, potentially remaining reliant on the dealership networks to facilitate a large proportion of the purchase.

Part of the allure of Amazon is the trust consumers have in the brand; if the most crucial part of a purchase for many individuals results in being navigated away from Amazon will this erode that trust? 

Over 4.3m people each year choose to part exchange their existing vehicle when purchasing a new one. This could be another area that could provide headaches for Amazon. Whilst most of the process in car purchasing can be done remotely, at some point in the process, the dealership will need to see the vehicle, which could lead to a change in valuation.

As an e-commerce site, Amazon is very open to the fact that everything they do is with the consumer in mind. Our experience suggests this can cause issues for sellers, as they have to amend processes to fit the confines of the platform to avoid being delisted. 

According to IRP Commerce, the average order value on Amazon is around £101, which has grown by 3.48% YoY. However, given the average cost of a new car in the UK at the end of 2022 was £39,308, it would remain to be seen how comfortable consumers are buying such a high ticket item through Amazon. 

Google’s Vehicle Ads Roll Out

It is worth noting that Google announced the Beta for Vehicle Ads in March 2022. We were expecting a launch in Q4 23, but 20 months later this has yet to be fully rolled out.

Google is keen to get a piece of the automotive industry, given the high volume of individuals undertaking research online. 94% of the in-market car buying audience begin their purchase with research online, with 70% watching at least one form of video in this stage.

Google will likely hold an advantage over Amazon when it comes to the ease with which they can take their solution to market. With Google Ads proving a far more intuitive space for advertisers, advertisers will be able to run a feed through the Merchant Centre in the same way retailers would.

The main drawback for new car sales will be the need for inventory, which in the current climate is not a given. If Amazon were able to bring the showroom experience to their platform, supporting the needs of consumers then they could beat Google at their own game.

However, it is important to remember the traditional players in the automotive market who already have the platform in place working alongside dealerships as a vital tool in their sales armoury. 

Impact on the Automotive Industry

Some of the above might come across as negative, but it's important to temper expectations, with purchases of a vehicle often requiring additional steps not seen in similar purchases. When buying a watch, you are purely interested in the aesthetics, the feel on your wrist and whether it tells the right time. With a vehicle, often there is far more to take into account, which is why test drives remain such a vital part of a new car purchase. 

From a new car purchasing perspective, I am not convinced that Amazon entering the market as a platform to sell cars online will make much of a difference. The current purchase journey is far too ingrained, with too many steps that require in person interactions. It seems a big leap from an average order value of £100 to £40k.

However, from a used car perspective, the market is already online which will make it easier for consumers to see Amazon as another route to purchase, similarly to a Cinch. 

 

Whatever happens in the near future, we would recommend testing Amazon, even if purchases don’t happen online, your audience could be on Amazon. As such, it could become an additional step in the path to purchase. 

If your brand or dealership isn’t on the platform, your competitors likely will be. 

 

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