By Luca Mentuccia
Consumers say they are turning to a variety of online and offline services to help them make their car-buying decisions because industry websites fail to satisfy their needs, a new global survey by Accenture (NYSE:ACN) reveals.
The survey of 13,000 drivers in 11 countries found that consumers believe the car-buying process would be simpler and quicker if the content on auto industry websites was customized to be more relevant to their specific car-buying preferences and if the industry adopted such online innovations as web chat and mobile-enabled websites, which are used widely in other retailing sectors.
Of the survey respondents who say they research their car purchases online before buying a vehicle, 78 percent visit at least six websites or more first, and 15 percent say they need to browse more than 20 websites to get the information they seek. In addition, 75 percent say they still turn to more traditional offline media for the information required to make a car-buying decision.
Accenture believes the findings demonstrate a lack of integrated digital marketing among manufacturer and dealer sites in the automotive industry. More than three quarters (80 percent) of the respondents would like more intuitive, customized content made available to them, while 75 percent favor a process that will enable them to obtain more simplified information online. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) would like the comparison process simplified, and 68 percent would welcome the ability to chat online with a dealer.
“A consistent customer experience is vital to the online-offline sales process, an area in which the auto industry is notably lagging other sectors in the eyes of the consumer,” said Luca Mentuccia, global managing director of Accenture’s Automotive Industry Group. “Consumers have made it clear that they want better online support, advice and personalization when buying a car with consistent handoffs to the dealer when they are ready to visit the showroom. At a time when digital marketers are utilizing algorithms to predict what online visitors want to know, automakers should be better able to shape web content that is more user-centric.”
According to the survey, most respondents (88 percent) also want easier and clearer pricing to help expedite the car-buying process, while 77 percent want dealers to provide them with a simpler way to configure a vehicle. More than three quarters (76 percent) would like to have the ability to compare additional options with the same automaker’s product line and 75 percent would welcome more mobile-enabled websites. Additionally, 74 percent desire better integration between dealer sites and inventory search functions.
“In our experience, car buyers are open to post-sales activities such as loyalty program memberships and enrollment in maintenance plans,” said Mentuccia. “Success with these programs can be enhanced through the use of customized landing pages that are based on customer demographics, personal preferences and previous interactions. However, our research shows that consumers believe the auto industry has a way to go to enhance digital marketing.”
Better Digital Marketing Sites Key to Future Car-buying
According to the survey, 82 percent of the respondents believe that better interactive digital marketing is a must for the auto industry, and 83 percent agree that improved digital media would significantly reduce the time needed to purchase a vehicle. In addition, over three quarters of consumers (76 percent) feel that the auto sector significantly lags other retail industries in the use of digital media tools such as video and 360-degree website tours.
Accenture believes that putting digital marketing to better use could yield an increase in topline sales for the automotive sector of one to two percent.
Americans use social media, Italians less likely to use manufacturers’ websites, Germans want on-line chat with dealers
The study polled consumers in both developed and emerging markets. In each of these markets, the level of digital penetration has created an appetite among buyers for using digital channels, illustrating how important it is for auto makers and dealers to tap into the power of mobile devices and the internet. However, the research also uncovered some disparities among consumers in the countries represented in the survey:
• American drivers, for example, are the most likely to turn to social media when buying a car – 94 percent use social media reviews as part of their online searches, compared with only 58 percent of consumers in India and 75 percent overall.
• Chinese buyers expressed the highest interest – 82 percent – in using digital communications to find out more about new in car-technology. In contrast, they had the lowest interest – 76 percent – in using digital communications to learn more about parts exchange upgrades.
• German drivers – 81 percent – had the greatest interest in chatting with dealers on line in order to make the online purchase process easier.
• By contrast, only 58 percent of Malaysian drivers and 59 percent of Indian drivers expressed an interest in this option.
• The country with the highest interest among consumers in carrying out the entire vehicle purchase process online is South Korea. In fact, 96 percent of South Korean respondents said they would be interested in handling everything regarding a car purchase online, including financing, price negotiation, back-office paperwork and final delivery to their home.
• Indian drivers are the least likely to have bought their current car online: 13 percent, compared to 37 percent of American respondents.
• More than half (56 percent) of Indonesians visit fewer than five car-buying websites, while 33 percent of Americans visit more than 20 websites when buying a car.
• Italian drivers are the least likely to use manufacturers’ websites when making online searches for a car, at 60 percent, compared to 84 percent of South Koreans and 72 percent of respondents overall.
• Brazilian and French drivers expressed the greatest interest in in seeing easier and clearer online pricing, with 93 percent of respondents in both countries citing this factor.
• Among Japanese drivers responding to the survey, 83 percent said they would like to see more mobile-enabled websites to help them in the car-purchasing process, compared to only 54 percent of Indian respondents.
In terms of the major influencers that impact their car-buying decisions, survey respondents essentially gave equal weight across the board to manufacturer sites (53 percent), the recommendations of friends and colleagues (54 percent), social media (56 percent) and advice from family (59 percent).
“The wide range of influencers with no discernible ‘leader’ demonstrates the extent to which consumers are constantly assessing their car purchases,” Mentuccia said.
“Consumers are in a constant state of purchase evaluation, which is changing the traditional boundaries of marketing and customer loyalty. Through the sophisticated use of digital technology, automakers and dealers could better interact with their customers and have a stronger online influence in the buying process.”
About the Study
The consumer survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes Research on behalf of Accenture. It was carried out online from August through September 2012 in multiple languages. The markets covered were Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the United States.
Interviews were conducted with 13,000 drivers, between the ages of 18 to more than 65, who have a vehicle that is no more than three years old.
About the author and Accenture
ca Mentuccia is global managing director of Accenture’s Automotive Industry Group. Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with 257,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012.