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2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study (MWES)--Wave 1 Results

2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study (MWES)--Wave 1 Results

By Jeff Youngs, January 30, 2013
The manufacturer's website has established itself as a vital sales tool, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM (MWES)--Wave 1. This semiannual study, now in its 14th year, finds that new-vehicle shoppers are more likely to test drive a vehicle following a satisfying experience on an automotive manufacturer's website. The study further finds that the ease of access to information on a website has a direct impact on shoppers' decision to continue shopping that particular make.

The study, which was fielded in November 2012 and is based on responses from 10,006 new-vehicle shoppers, measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturers' websites during the shopping process by examining four key measures (in order of importance): information/content, navigation, appearance, and speed.

"Finding the right balance of content, ease of navigation and site speed is what ultimately drives new-vehicle shopper satisfaction with the website," said Arianne Walker, senior director of media & marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates. "Satisfaction with a website increases the likelihood that shoppers will visit a dealership and test drive a vehicle."

The study notes that a website's effectiveness on all platforms (desktop computer, tablet and mobile device) is important to its success as a sales tool. For example, the study finds that among new-vehicle shoppers on desktops who are "delighted" with their experience on a manufacturer's website (satisfaction index scores of greater than 900 on a 1,000-point scale), 72% are more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the manufacturer's site, compared with only 25% of "disappointed" shoppers (satisfaction index scores of 550 or less).

Tablet ownership on the rise, but other formats still preferred
Tablet ownership has risen 23% during the past six months among consumers who evaluated a website, according to the study, and site designers must take this into account. Still, new-vehicle shoppers are more likely to access automotive information while at home (37%) than while shopping or running errands (16%).

"Shoppers want the same content-rich experience whether they're on a desktop, tablet or smartphone," said Walker. "The challenge for automakers is creating sites that meet the needs of shoppers across platforms. The industry has generally chosen to maintain two sites, rather than a third one for tablet shoppers, reducing the burden of maintaining and keeping information updated and consistent across three separate sites.

"Shoppers on a tablet are able to access all of the shopping information when they're directed to a desktop website, compared with a mobile site. However, it's critical that the desktop sites be designed to accommodate tablet navigational needs."

Walker further remarked that it's important for automakers to develop a site that is reflective of their brand image and meets the needs of their shoppers.

"While there are some common elements across all websites, each site should have a unique look and feel and align with the brand's image," said Walker.

Among vehicle manufacturers' websites, the Smart brand ranks highest in overall satisfaction with a score of 845. Jeep ranks second with a score of 840, followed by Lincoln (835) and Acura (834). Overall satisfaction with automotive brand websites averages 812.

Based on this study, J.D. Power and Associates offers the following consumer tips for a satisfying Web shopping experience:

  • Prepare a list of key features and attributes that you want in a vehicle before you shop. Determine what your most important issues are, which might include gas mileage, warranty, price, appearance, power, comfort, accessibility, or any number of other matters.
  • When shopping several vehicle makes, keep a chart comparing the features and attributes of different vehicles, so you won't have to constantly revisit various websites.

View All Automotive Study Ratings

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