The Internet and digital technologies are now inextricably linked with the car-buying process. 94 percent of all purchases start with a search on the Internet. Around one-third of car buyers in developed markets (35 percent in Germany) can even imagine making a complete purchase over the Internet. In growing markets such as China, India and Brazil, this figure is almost half. The value in the developed markets has remained stable over the last few years, while it is steadily declining in the growing markets. For car parts and accessories, the importance of the Internet as a sales channel is even higher: around two-thirds of German buyers are open to online purchasing for these product categories, while only one in ten (accessories) and one in ten (aftermarket) are open to online purchasing. One in five (spare parts) completely forgoes the Internet here. Social networks, forums and blogs are also taking their place in the decision-making process: in Germany, positive entries influence the purchase by 59 percent and negative entries by 54 percent (worldwide figures 69 or. 57 percent). The Cars Online study has been examining developments in car buying at annual intervals since 1999. For the 2013 edition, Capgemini Consulting surveyed the eight core markets of Brazil, China, Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Russia and the United States.000 people surveyed, representative of potential car buyers by age and gender in each country.
Combining the virtual world with a personal (buying) experience
In parallel with the increasingly digitally oriented buying experience, the importance of the retailer as a central point of contact has risen over the last few years. In 2010, for example, only 37 percent of German car buyers considered the dealer to be an important source of information; in the current survey, by contrast, it's 64 percent. "Dealers and manufacturers alike are dealing with increasingly well-informed customers who have a shorter buying horizon and expect an end-to-end connected experience from smartphone to showroom. At the same time, dealers still play a central role in the buying process," says Markus Winkler, head of automotive at Capgemini Consulting. When it comes to brand-specific information offerings, i.E., manufacturers' websites, the car configurator and – especially among German potential buyers – the option of booking a test drive rank high on the wish list. Both represent a bridge to the retail trade, which must be designed accordingly together with the manufacturers. Because at the time of the first contact with a dealer, four out of five prospective customers have not yet made a decision on a particular model. "From then on, dealers have a window of up to approximately two months to bring the previous online buying experience to a signature on the purchase contract. And the expectation is that the technology or features that customers know from the Internet or from their smartphones will also be available at the retailer," says Winkler. Dealers can still score points with the test drive, the presentation of the real vehicle or the personal price negotiation. But these "classic" factors need to be supplemented by 3D/4D configurators in the showroom (desired by 39 percent of German buyers) or interactive touch screens (32 percent), which offer users a continuous experience from the web to the showroom, among other things.