SURGING use of smartphones for online shopping has made internet car-buying almost indistinguishable from ordering a takeaway.
According to the online car supermarket BuyaCar.co.uk, the proportion of orders placed via a smartphone screen has exploded to almost 4 out of 5 cars sold in the past 12 months.
The company says that with 78.5% of orders now at least partly completed on mobile, buying a car online is becoming as normal as ordering a takeaway through an app.
Key to the mobile buying revolution at BuyaCar.co.uk has been the introduction of facial recognition in its finance application process, which enables even the vital fraud prevention step to be completed with a smartphone.
The pocket-size convenience of the small screen has seen phones squeeze tablets like the iPad into single figures and relegate laptop or desktop computers to a distant second place.
Three years ago orders for cars on BuyaCar.co.uk using desktop or laptop computers and smartphones were running neck and neck while almost one in 5 were being placed by tablet users. In 2017 desktops or laptops just had the edge, used for placing 41.4% of orders, followed by mobile at 40.4% and tablets used for the rest.
So far this year visitors to the site are more than twice as likely to arrive on their phone, rising to a 78.5% likelihood of using the phone to complete their car search, add it to their shopping basket, make a finance application, complete fraud checks or connect with a BuyaCar adviser. This contrasts with 72.5% for desktop or laptop and just 8.2% involving tablets.
BuyaCar.co.uk believes increased use of smartphones in its transactions reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of BuyaCar customers are in their 20s and 30s - age groups that have grown up with the smartphone.
Meanwhile, the reduction in tablet use in the car buying process may reflect the tendency for tablets to be most popular today with older users who are less likely to buy cars online.
The trend toward smartphones as the preferred device for browsing and buying cars online has even continued during the coronavirus lockdown, despite many people remaining at home where the convenience of a mobile device is less important than under the normal circumstances of a train commute or an office coffee break.
Before the pandemic one BuyaCar.co.uk customer bought a car while sunbathing on a beach, nearly 8,000 miles away, in Bali, while other orders have been placed from Malta, South Africa and British holiday destinations, for delivery as soon as holidaymakers returned home.
Technological advances in fraud prevention have also helped to make smartphones a go-to tool for ensuring finance applicants are who they say they are. For example, BuyaCar.co.uk has now implemented a facial recognition system that compares a customer’s face - via the smartphone camera - with photographs on official documents such as a driving license or passport.
It means that, for the first time, the purchase of even large and expensive items, requiring careful protection from fraud for both buyer and seller, can be completed on the go anywhere with mobile internet or wireless internet access.
Andy Oldham, CEO of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “Since smartphones became the device of first choice for so many of our customers the BuyaCar team are rarely surprised to find out where they are. As well as receiving an order placed from a beach in Bali we have also sold to customers in Malta and holidaying in South Africa.
“None of this would be possible without the smartphone revolution and the accompanying technologies, such as our facial recognition system to confirm your identity alongside an official document, enabled by your phone camera.
“It means that buying a car on your phone is becoming as normal as ordering a takeaway meal through an app like Deliveroo. Today, every part of the buying process is possible through the small screen. Even the consumer experience is similar - right down to the eventual knock on the door as your takeaway or car is delivered to your home.”