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“Customers today buy cars in a radically different way than they did a few years ago. They start from the internet. In fact, around 97% of car buyers in Germany start their purchasing journey on the internet and most of them [take] an omni-channel approach.”

Only about 1% of people in Germany seem to believe that their car buying experience is the optimal one.

As expectations increase and ‘online’ becomes embedded in the car buying process, brand loyalties will be challenged.

This was the message from Edoardo Demarchi, partner with global consultancy, Roland Berger at the International Auto Finance Network conference.

“They go on the web, then they go on mobile, maybe they visit the dealer then they go back on the web, they configure the car, see how much they're going to pay and go to the dealer.

Auto finance companies need to focus on their web and mobile marketing channels and look at how to support their dealers and partners to make the customer journey seamless.

A particular threat is the potential for online brands to offer every service from a single hub, from car sales to finance, which could lead to a finance company being frozen out of a customer journey altogether.

He said: “This is a new breed of internet players; new players in the omni-channel journey. These players are focusing on the buying experience of the client.

“The big challenge for all traditional participants in the industry is to partner or to avoid being disintermediated by new players who specialise in specific segments like pre-sales, sales, after sales, finance of used cars or paperwork, but also players which integrate everything.”

This needs to be balanced with how auto finance companies maintain control of the interface with the client and where possible direct the client to the auto finance company’s own sites, rather than to intermediaries.

Demarchi advises that the entry points for new online entrants indicate where the current customer journey needs to be enhanced.

Edoardo Demarchi’s presentation is based on research among Europe’s largest auto finance providers.