E-commerce trends: mobility and car sales

A Trend Sonar report

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What’s trending in the automotive e-commerce market? Now is the chance to set new standards for mobility

A generation of digital progress has disrupted the mobility sector's control of customer interaction. As a new decade begins, the commoditisation of e-commerce across the mobility sectors presents itself as perhaps the biggest threat – and opportunity – for change. Customer led demand for innovation will leave no part of the automotive industry untouched. The coming decade looks set to permanently re-invent our perception of mobility.

Automotive Retail: the evolution of online platforms to sell and purchase a car


The first online marketplaces for used cars appear. Previously, consumers were dependent on local dealers and the purchase experience was almost 100% physical.

Even when considering a model, awareness was drawn from traditional advertising, and research was largely conducted via printed brochures from dealers.


Online broker platforms appear to provide support during the sales process between authorised dealers and the end consumer.

Sales of new cars focused on the “build-to-stock” model. Online research becomes a crucial part of the experience as platforms begin providing online booking, car configurators and e-brochures.


Consumers research vehicles across different channels. Competition for leads between platforms increase, leading to a professionalisation of the digital experience.

Car subscription services, digital dealerships, and innovative third-party online platforms appear. OEMs increase their focus on multichannel activities – some of them with a direct sales approach.


The process of buying a car continues to undergo digital reinvention. As consumers constantly switched from digital to physical channels (pre- to post-purchase), aligning the online and offline interactions becomes an integral part of the purchase experience.

OEMs increase their focus on selling their cars directly to consumers (DTC) and some of them start launching D2C pilots.


COVID-19 becomes a catalyst to force automotive online retail models to be adopted by most OEMs.

OEMs use an omnichannel approach to compete with evolved online marketplaces, car subscription and sharing services and new players focused solely on digital-first direct-to-consumer platforms. Integration of analytics, pricing tools and financing models in the online purchase process is now a standard application to increase leads.

By 2025, it is estimated that

6 million new vehicles



By using our Sonar Trend Platform, we have scoured millions of online sources to identify the most relevant trends related to automotive e-commerce, based on their occurrence within expert media articles, mass media, patents and scientific publications. The trends are placed in different quadrants of a matrix that displays the growth and citation volume of each topic.

Where are we with buying cars online now?

New and digital first players are capitalising on well designed digital native solutions, challenging the old power dynamics of carmakers and dealerships.

  • Traditional offerings are being automated
  • Tech capabilities are enabling new experiences
  • The roles and expectations within the industry are evolving

The upper sales funnel is the new battleground

Traditional service models are being leapfrogged as new D2C platforms emerge creating new concepts of ownership and a new life for used cars.

  • Selling a car from anywhere is the new normal
  • The renewed concept of car ownership is creating new opportunities

The future of mobility will be virtual

Cars are now more than a means of mobility; they are objects able to collect and share data. New data driven business models open up new opportunities for aftermarket players.

  • Rethinking industry job roles to rethink the car experience
  • Who owns the data will own industry innovation
  • The industry is entering into a platform economy

Will the coming decade re-invent our perception of mobility and meet the Customer experience expectations in the automotive industry?

Technology IS driving change ACROSS the whole automotive landscape

Emerging technologies and the rise of connected, autonomous, electric, and shared (ACES) mobility are disrupting the traditional automotive business landscape.

Digital customer experiences are profiting from new technologies enriching the whole customer journey from marketing, product experience, to purchase and service.

Emerging startups and new players ARE transforming the playing field

The traditional automotive value chain is experiencing increasing competitive pressure from new players and business models, disturbing the existing power equilibrium.

E-mobility, IT giants and new agile and digital tech businesses capitalizing on as-a-service business models are disrupting vehicle sales as well as aftermarket OEM and dealership structures.

Consumer expectations and needs will increase and change

Consumers - especially the younger mobile-first generation - are native to e-commerce.

They see purchasing via digital channels and interfaces with a service mindset, expecting, for example, cross-channel and cross-device buying, 24/7 support, free as well as instant delivery / returns and personalized offerings.


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