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Online car buyers still want a physical experience

The more digital they get, the more they miss the showroom.
Axel Schmidt
Axel Schmidt
Accenture Managing Director

Accenture research reveals that less than one third of the customers who bought a new car in the past five years would do so again from a standard dealership in the future. Most prefer different options, regardless of whether they are premium or volume customers.

But our research also reveals a paradox: The more digital car buyers get, the more they seek a rewarding physical experience. Chinese millennials, for instance, want digital advice and personal interaction.

Indeed, customers most inclined to buy online visit car dealerships more often than less digital buyers, though they then tend to spend less time with the dealer. Having made their decisions online, they have very specific reasons for visiting a store: the excitement of the showroom, and the human touch. Case in point: 40 percent of Chinese millennials prefer to buy cars from flagship dealerships.

All of which suggests that if OEMs could collaborate with dealers to offer more engaging offline customer experiences, while leveraging more active online options, and ensure that informed and engaged “customer geniuses” are on-hand in both channels, they could control the customer interface more effectively—and fend off the new entrants whose platform business models have already disrupted the second-hand car market.

Shifting from product- to customer-centricity, and from passive online information provision to active online consultation would mirror what has already occurred in other retail spaces where providers struggle to retain control over the increasingly liquid expectations of their digitally emancipated customers.

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