NEW YORK: Three quarters of car owners looking to purchase a new vehicle are ready to do everything online, from research to negotiation, financing and delivery, according to a new survey that identifies after-sales as a particular area in need of improvement.

Consulting firm Accenture polled 10,000 car owners in eight major countries – Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and the US – found that 80% percent of respondents in the market for a new car are using some form of digital technology to research their buying preferences.

And some 62% are already initiating the car-buying process online, including consulting social media channels, before entering a dealership.

There appears widespread enthusiasm for taking the digital approach further, as 75% of drivers polled said they would consider conducting the entire car-buying process online.

Accenture said this indicated a need for manufacturers and dealers to increase their focus on online engagement with consumers.

The research highlighted several areas where consumers felt improvements could be made, including making online research easier by delivering more tailored information and offering more virtual demonstrations.

The one thing that consumers around the world were least interested in was having an online chat with a dealer.

This aversion to talking to dealers extended to the showroom itself as more than half of respondents (53%) said they would be interested in using an interactive touch display that provides information on the available models, while 48% liked the option of taking a virtual test drive when there.

One of the weakest links in the digital car-buying experience, survey respondents felt, was the after-sales process. Accenture said addressing this is critical, arguing that poor performance in this area can make or break brand loyalty.

"The impact of the digital customer is becoming pervasive, disrupting the traditional car-buying experience and the competitive landscape," said Christina Raab, global managing director for Digital Consumer Services in Accenture's Automotive practice.

"In order to grow business in this environment, OEMs and dealers will need to pursue an aggressive digital strategy online, in the showroom and in after-sales, while creating a seamless, integrated experience to accommodate all customer needs."

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff