In a case of unintended consequences, automotive digital marketing often spurs car shoppers to go offline for more information.

That’s according to a new Accenture survey that indicates there’s room for improvement in the way auto makers and dealers use the Internet to sell cars.

In a poll of 1,000 U.S. drivers, 73% say auto maker and dealer digital-marketing approaches drive them to use more traditional offline sources to get information they need to choose a vehicle.

The study suggests U.S. consumers want a smoother online-offline transition from visiting websites to completing the purchase of a vehicle at a dealership.

Respondents also yearn for auto-industry website content that is more relevant to their specific car-buying needs, says consultancy Accenture.

“A consistent customer experience is vital to the online-offline sales process,” says Anant Kamat, a managing director with Accenture’s automotive unit.

“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,” he says.

At a time when digital marketers use algorithms to predict what online visitors want to know, auto makers should show an ability to make Web content more user-centric. Kamat adds.

Accenture says other retailers more effectively offer what consumers perceive as a seamless online-offline sales experience.

Nearly 80% of people surveyed think the auto sector lags other retail sectors in the use of digital tools, such as 360-degree video website tours, while 82% believe better interactive digital marketing is an auto-industry must.

Nine out of 10 people believe improved auto industry websites would slash the time it takes to buy a car or truck, Accenture says.

Of those who say they research their car purchases online before buying a vehicle, 90% visited at least six websites and 33% say they needed to go to more than 20 websites for the information they sought.

Other survey findings include:

  • 91% want easier and clearer pricing.
  • 88% would like dealers to provide a simpler way to configure a vehicle.
  • 74% favor a process that provides access to more simplified information online.

Of those surveyed, 94% say they would consider having the option of making the entire vehicle purchase online, including financing, price negotiation, paperwork and delivery at home.

However other studies indicate few car buyers today actually use the Internet to that extent.

The Accenture research is part of a global study of 13,000 drivers in 11 countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

Ninety-four percent of Americans say they are likely to use social media when shopping for a car. That compares with 75% for consumers in the other countries.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com