The COVID-19 crisis has created shortcuts and pushed forward eCommerce opportunities in many traditional industries, which would have taken much more time to evolve.

The automotive sector is a dynamic and rapidly changing one. Some of the trends shifting this market are Industry 4.0 in the manufacturing world; smart mobility and smart cities; electric and autonomous vehicles affecting aftermarket players like repair shops, tyre shops, second-hand dealerships, fleets; and also the actual car drivers themselves.

The pandemic emphasised the need for dealerships and repair shops to digitalise all their services and assets while having to adapt and go online. Companies like Wix and Elementor have thrived during this period, while many SME owners of all fields rushed to build their new websites or refresh their old ones to include eCommerce plugins and elements.

These businesses start to take their sales online, where the options are endless and fierce competition. That means that they will have to do proper research and listen to what consumers say if they want to survive the cutthroat world of eCommerce. This situation signals the introduction of customer experience (CX) analysis and market research to previously face-to-face only businesses.

If buying a car online only was reserved for science fiction just a couple years ago, corona time has proven that many potential customers from all over the world are happy to log in to an auction website. When choosing a new or used car, the customer would want to view crucial historical data and high resolution remarketing images of the vehicle while making the purchasing decision online.

Last week, I had the chance to participate in a roundtable hosted by Chris Maguire, the executive editor at BusinessCloud. One of the speakers there was Yaron Saghiv from Uveye, who’ve been able to assist in capturing high-resolution images of the body, undercarriage, and tyres of any vehicle while exposing mechanical damage.

Part of the digital transformation everyone talks about is providing more traditional brick and mortar shops with CRM and inventory management software systems, something that COVID-19 has quickened. Being able to equip dealerships with a technology that seamlessly transforms their inventory from offline to online was a real challenge during this period.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Barak Yaari, CTO at Scrapezone, who pointed to an exciting development regarding Amazon automotive category sales. It seems consumer interests are shifting, and data is a great way to track those changes. Hence, not only are the dealerships going online, but consumers are also keeping their automotive eCommerce game healthy.

The second service and need, which was emphasised, was the ability to inspect and evaluate a vehicle’s condition without human interference and while keeping social distancing. Knowing a business place is safe to visit will foster a sense of security with consumers that are only waiting for the opportunity to get a bit of normalcy back. Businesses leveraging digital tools to do so will only benefit.

When a customer wants to inspect his car and book an appointment online at the local repair shop, he would want to have access to a service that will keep both himself and the staff safe. Visual inspection systems based on artificial intelligence can help solve some of these issues and alert passengers, which might have a high temperature approaching the shop.

Another area of the industry that has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 is the car rental market, which has suffered a dramatic decrease in demand. Even major operators like Hertz have faced crucial challenges. It will be interesting to see if there will be any new eCommerce online solutions providing rental services that will grow as opportunities from this crisis.

In addition, some new initiatives have emerged to soften the negative impact. Fiat, for instance, offers a massive 33% discount on online orders in Spain, with a first payment postponed to September. Other car rental companies are finding ways to leverage existing eCommerce platforms to their advantage. An inspiring example being discount vouchers available on Groupon for the leasing of vehicles by several car providers.

The true impact of COVID-19 is yet to be revealed and whether these effects would be long or short term. Undoubtedly, automotive and other classic industries have had to adapt quickly and become more accessible to the online consumer.