Southeast Asia’s Auto Industry is Set to Move Toward Digital Retail

Global ad-tech group, Quantcast has released a new report predicting that consumer behavior will change so drastically following COVID that 2021 will be the year car buyers in Southeast Asia make the move to digital retail.

The Quantcast APAC Automotive Insights – Consumer purchasing preferences and digital patterns report examines the state-of-play of the region’s automotive industry and how consumer behavior is influencing the vehicle purchase cycle.

According to the research, with COVID restricting physical travel, it has become necessary for auto brands and dealerships to intimately understand the digital experiences they offer consumers, especially as more people are browsing and buying from home.


“Some brands are staying ahead of the game by enabling customers to have richer buying experiences entirely online. Nissan, for example, announced the launch of [email protected] in December 2020, a digital platform allowing customers to conduct 100% of their purchase online, including test drives, financial arrangements, and more,” said Quantcast Account Director, Sybil Ng.

“This year is just the beginning of what looks like a trend of automotive digital retail rising in the region, with analysts predicting the APAC e-commerce market will hit $34.46 billion by 2026.1 It is now more important than ever for advertisers to know their customers. Understanding the auto buyer audience and their buying triggers and pathways help to reduce ad spend waste by reaching those most receptive to auto brands and most likely to buy.”

The report identifies five key consumer triggers when purchasing a car:

  1. Value is more important to most of today’s car buyers, even among the more affluent.
  2. Interest triggers for luxury car buyers include investing, real estate, and family changes.
  3. Younger prospects tend to start researching luxury car brands early on, years before they might be able to buy.
  4. Internet users aged 45+ prefer using laptops and desktop for online research activities, indicating a preference for richer content experiences versus accessing information quickly using a mobile device.
  5. Social distancing measures during COVID-19 as well as health concerns have changed the way consumers shop for vehicles. The auto decision-making process has quickened, with potential buyers booking test drives within shorter time frames than pre-pandemic.

With the onset of COVID-19, automotive sales slowed across the Asia Pacific region throughout 2020; however, the industry has been slowly recovering, with recent buying behavior showing that consumers are starting to increase vehicle purchases as they resume traveling.

Second-hand car sales and the demand for low-emission vehicles continue to rise, as domestic travel soars across the region. Australians are now paying almost 40% more for used cars than in pre-pandemic 2019.

“We know that today’s car buyer isn’t afraid to do their research, so it’s critical for automotive brands to have established digital paths that give prospective buyers the information they need at every stage of their purchasing journey,” said Ng.

“Leveraging AI and other technologies that reveal live audience behaviors can help auto brands reach more prospects and stand out from competing brands, while rich media formats create visually exciting digital experiences for people visiting auto sites.”

The full report is available at

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