Nissan? BMW? Mercedes? UAE car buyers undecided says Google

Nine out of 10 car buyers in the Emirates have no idea what car they will buy before they start researching online for their options.

The Rolls-Royce showroom off Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. 90 per cent of UAE residents are not sure of the brand they will buy before they start browsing cars. Sarah Dea / The National
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Nine out of 10 car buyers in the Emirates have no idea what car they will buy before they start researching online for their options. The figure comes from Google’s Global Auto Shopper Study into our buying patterns and the manner in which some auto dealers miss out on possible sales because of gaps in their digital strategy.

“90 per cent of UAE residents are not sure of the brand they will buy before they start browsing so there is a massive ability to influence someone’s choice,” said Marie de Ducla, head of the automotive industry at Google in Mena. “That compares with 79 per cent in the UK and 80 per cent in the US. The discrepancy comes from the amount of available brands here.

“UAE residents have a high purchasing power - and expats typically experience an increase in purchasing power when they move to UAE. This gives individuals more choice and thus makes them more undecided when starting to search for a car.”

The country’s love of mobile devices was obvious in the report with 60 per cent of car buyers using their mobiles to research brands and, increasingly, watch videos (77 per cent) about various cars. It is a trend that is being targeted by UAE-based dealerships that are vying for space on the digital platform.

“We are currently working on a completely new mobile engagement strategy,” said Patrick Fourniol, head of marketing at Al-Futtaim Motors - Toyota.

“It will allow people to virtually complete their purchasing decision via a mobile platform. We have a dedicated team that provides constant updates and actively engages with the online community, addressing their feedback, questions, comments and concerns either directly or via the appropriate channels. This results in more test drives and purchase consideration, as well as increased sales.”

The report suggests that a clear digital strategy can pay dividends for auto dealers but a disconnect between the digital marketing and the physical response can elicit a negative response.

“The online experience is expected to mirror the physical reality, so bad service virtually is the same as bad service face to face,” said Mrs de Ducla. “It seems some customer relationship management systems are not organised and developed in a way that the dealership can refer to, or follow up on, the request. They then lose all the leads they get from online media. Over half of our respondents (56 per cent) would turn to another dealer with an inadequate online response, and some would switch brand.”

While digital platforms increasingly shape the marketing of most brands in the UAE and the ubiquity of smartphones allows instant access to a variety of platforms, some car salesmen believe cars are bought in a show room, not on a phone.

“The vast majority of our customers who do their research online still prefer human interaction to help them with the purchase decision,” said Fardeen Sara, general manager of sales at Al-Futtaim Honda. “They are looking for the buying experience and someone to guide them before they sign on the dotted line. There is a small minority of customers that know exactly what they want and simply walk in and purchase on the day as long as the deal is right.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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