NEW YORK: Most consumers are doing online research to help them make car-buying decisions, and most are doing so before visiting a dealership, a new survey by Accenture reveals. The survey also shows that 75 percent of drivers polled would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online.

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

Additionally, three-quarters (75 percent) of the respondents said that if given the opportunity, they would consider making their entire car-buying process online, including financing, price negotiation, back office paperwork and home delivery.

Two-thirds (69 percent) 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 percent of respondents said they would be interested in buying a new car through an online auction.

“The impact of the digital customer is becoming pervasive, disrupting the traditional car-buying experience and the competitive landscape,” said 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.”

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Car-buying changing around the world
While the survey indicates that digital technology is increasingly influencing auto markets throughout the world, the results also show that there are marked differences by country in consumer preferences:

  • Chinese respondents had the strongest interest in buying a new car online, with 92 percent saying that they had done so or would consider it. By contrast, drivers in Japan expressed the lowest interest: 80 percent of Japanese respondents said they would not consider such a buying option.
  • Eighty-two percent of the drivers surveyed in India and 83 percent of their counterparts in China are interested in online financing negotiation in the car-buying process.
  • U.S. drivers are particularly interested in comparison shopping sites, while Chinese respondents are most enthusiastic about having instant access to information about a car model.
  • Among all options presented, drivers in every country surveyed expressed the least interest in engaging in an online “chat” with dealers.
  • When making a car-buying decision, drivers in India are most influenced by car websites and online automotive publications. In contrast, drivers in Japan are most likely to buy a vehicle without doing any online research, and more drivers in Italy are influenced by visiting a dealership than anything else.
  • In China, 90 percent of surveyed drivers would be interested in using online auctions for new-car buying. Drivers in Japan, France and Germany would have less interest, with 80, 65 and 55 percent, respectively, saying “no” to this option.
  • When considering the weakest areas of the buying process related to the digital experience, German drivers view the pre-sales advice from online sales teams ineffective, while U.S. drivers feel the trade-in value of a current vehicle needs the most improvement. Overall, however, the respondents feel pre-sales online information needs the least attention.