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Most car buyers prefer online experience

From car hunting to kicking the tires, “test driving”—even financing

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Most car buyers prefer online experience

Most consumers are doing online research to help them make car-buying decisions, and most are doing so before visiting a dealership, a new Accenture survey reveals.

The international survey also shows that 75% of drivers polled would consider conducting the entire car-buying process—including the financing—online.

The survey of 10,000 consumers in eight major countries found that 80% of drivers seeking to purchase a new vehicle are using some form of digital technology to research their buying preferences. Nearly two-thirds (62%) are initiating the car-buying process online, including consulting social media channels, before entering a dealership.

Additionally, three-quarters (75%) of the respondents said that, given the opportunity, they would consider making their entire car-buying purchase online, including financing, price negotiation, back-office paperwork, and home delivery. Two-thirds (69%) said they have either bought a car online or would consider doing so. The findings also reveal that consumers would be open to using new, emerging online channels for purchases. For example, 63% of respondents said they would be interested in buying a new car through an online auction.

Accenture says the survey findings point to the growing need for automotive original equipment manufacturers and dealers to increase their focus on online engagement with consumers.

More than half the drivers surveyed said they want the auto industry to improve online channels in order to make researching a new vehicle easier. Specifically, they are interested in obtaining more tailored information online, more virtual demonstrations, and more sites that provide an opportunity for comparison shopping.

With respect to dealer visits, more than half (53%) said they would be interested in access to an interactive touch display that provides information on the available models during a visit to a showroom, and 48% would like to be able to take a virtual test drive at the dealership.

“The impact of the digital customer is becoming pervasive, disrupting the traditional car-buying experience and the competitive landscape,” says Christina Raab, global managing director for Digital Consumer Services in Accenture’s Automotive practice. “This is clearly supported by the fact that many would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online. In order to grow business in this environment, OEMs and dealers will need to pursue an aggressive digital strategy online, in the showroom and in aftersales, while creating a seamless, integrated experience to accommodate all customer needs.”

The survey found that consumers believe the aftersales process and the availability of extra pricing options online are the weakest links in the digital car-buying experience. Accenture says that about a fifth of the respondents believe these areas need to be improved. Accenture believes enhancing aftersales is particularly critical, because poor performance in this area can make or break brand loyalty.

“Consumer interest in making car purchases fully online or through new mechanisms such as online auctions suggests that OEMs and dealers should consider exploring those options,” Raab says. “They have the opportunity to develop a multichannel presence to meet varied and additional demand, increasing profitability.”

Check out Accenture’s survey infographics, executive summary, country by country breakdowns, download the study

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