Consumers who spend more time car shopping online end up visiting dealerships more often. But those stays are relatively short.
That’s according to an Accenture study that among other things compares what it calls “digital natives” (frequent online shoppers) with “digital laggards” (less avid online consumers).
The 3-country study indicates 60% of natives stopped at a dealership more than two times before buying a car. Forty-seven percent of the laggards did so.
Although natives visit dealerships more often, they spend less time on the premises because they make most of their purchase decisions beforehand online, according to the study.
Accenture says that underscores the recasting of a dealership as a place to finish the vehicle purchase rather than as a starting point of vehicle shopping. The study says many customers don’t see the need for in-person interaction at every stage of the transaction.
The survey cites a “digital paradox”: The more information digital car shoppers get, the more they want a rewarding dealership experience.
“They are visiting showrooms to seek distinct information to supplement the information found on the web, and want counsel from product and customer experts instead of a traditional sales presentation,” says Axel Schmidt, Accenture’s managing director-automotive practice.
The study polled consumers in the U.S., China and Germany, major auto markets with different buying preferences.
Chinese consumers showed the strongest preference (37%) for flagship stores, elaborate facilities that dramatically showcase an entire brand. The U.S. has some facilities like that, but flagships are more often located in markets where automakers run their own dealerships. The vast majority of dealerships in the U.S. are independently owned and operated.
Prospective buyers in Germany showed the strongest interest (46%) in buying a car at a standard dealership,
In the U.S., only 14% of the people surveyed prefer to purchase a vehicle from a flagship. Thirty-five percent still want to buy from a standard dealership.
Fifteen percent of polled Chinese, 10% of Germans and 19% of Americans said they would buy a car from an online store if they were possible.
Many surveyed consumers in all three countries say their online and offline experiences are poorly integrated. On a 1 to 4 scale, respondents on average rate their online-to-offline segue 2.3.
“As digitization increases, automakers and dealers can no longer afford to ignore full integration of their operations,” Schmidt says. “They must work together more closely than ever to create a truly seamless, multichannel experience to satisfy customers.”
Opportunities he cites to do that include cloud-base customer relationship management systems, business-insights software and virtual- and augmented reality technologies.
“Automakers and dealers have almost everything they need to make the online-offline experience more compelling, but what they need to do is to bring it all together and make it work,” Schmidt says.