Test drive is not dead, just needs to evolve

The demand for test drives was falling even before COVID-19, but now the thought of a stranger in a mask sitting next or behind you in a confined space, making friends as part of their scripted journey, feels even more out of touch with todays’ shoppers need. However, with cars being such physical products, tests drives are unlikely to be replaced completely by digital experiences. They just need to evolve. Here are a few thoughts on how.

Extended test drives

There is a clear opportunity to create a unique online proposition and great (and safe) customer experience by providing extended test drives, with the car being delivered to the customer.

This can then evolve into super-extended test drive, where you rent the car for family holidays and at the end either hand it back or keep it and get the rental fee refunded back.

Care by Volvo makes it even simpler. You “subscribe” to the car for a month and then give it back or carry on using with a 3-month commitment.

Driving vs seeing the car

Physical reassurance doesn’t necessarily translate to a test drive either. Some shoppers might just want to see if the pram fits in the boot, how the colour actually looks in a daylight, or whether they feel comfortable in the car or can work out how to operate the sat nav. A car in a shopping centre or dealers’ forecourts might be more accessible and less stressful than driving round a ring road for an hour with your new best friend in the back.

Online content and demos

Over the last few months, virtual demos and walkthroughs have become available on many manufacturers websites. They are great but need to be thoughtfully integrated into journeys rather than used as a catchall for all types of enquiries. They could also become far more social and experiential.

Car manufacturers should also help shoppers more with online peer and expert reviews, product specifications, and product and test-drive videos.

Booking should be easy and specific

One area to improve across all types of offline experiences is how they are booked. Filling out a form to be contacted at some point in future is no longer acceptable. Today shoppers are used to booking a specific seat on a plane or a room in a hotel six months before their holidays, so why they still can’t book the exact car, date, time and location they want to experience the car from?

In summary

The traditional test drives need to evolve into new multichannel experiences integrated into shoppers’ buying journeys. This is a great opportunity for car manufacturers to take the lead and establish new norms for interactions with their audience. And sell more cars as a result.

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