2014 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study--Summer Results
By Jeff Youngs,
Age, income, and desired vehicle type can influence what type of website content in-market shoppers will use when researching vehicles on OEM websites. According to the just-published J.D. Power 2014 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM--Summer (formerly MWES--Wave 2), higher-income customers are the most likely to use online comparison tools, and pickup truck shoppers are the most likely to view inventory. The study also reveals that searching for price-related information is the least satisfying of the various online tasks.
This semiannual study, now in its 15th year, has been redesigned to capture customer satisfaction with content and tool usage more precisely. It measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites during the new-vehicle shopping process by examining four key measures (in order of importance): information/content, appearance, navigation, and speed.
Higher-Income Shoppers More Likely to Use Comparison Tool
The study finds that shoppers with a reported household income of $175,000 and above are more likely to use a comparison tool than shoppers with a reported household income of less than $60,000 (64% vs. 49%, respectively). Further, the study finds that 57% of Gen Y shoppers (those born between 1977 and 1994) use video during the shopping process, compared with 43% of Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).
Additionally, the study finds that vehicle type is a key factor that influences the kind of online content that in-market shoppers consume. For example, pickup truck shoppers are more likely to view inventory when researching price-related information than non-pickup truck shoppers (33% vs. 19%, respectively).
"Providing the right content for shoppers is critical," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power. "In order to stay competitive, manufacturers must offer content that matches their shoppers' unique needs and preferences across multiple areas. Doing so increases consumer satisfaction with the website experience."
In-Market Shoppers Not Satisfied with Pricing Information
On average, shoppers access 6.2 areas of content or tools on OEM sites when researching a vehicle's information. They access an average of 5.6 areas when researching how a vehicle looks, and 3.7 areas when researching price. On OEM websites, 84% of shoppers participating in the study use the build-and-price tool, which is how most in-market shoppers research pricing information. However, shopping for price-related information is the least satisfying task among in-market shoppers. Customer satisfaction with that activity is 755 points on a 1,000-point scale.
"Pricing information is the least satisfying because it is much more complex than simply providing a dollar figure," said Walker. "Although price may seem simple and straightforward, shoppers are looking for something much more. They want to understand payment options and amounts, available discounts, financing terms, along with content that isn't explicitly price related, such as vehicle features, to help them understand the value of the vehicle they are considering. When the OEM site meets these needs it is much more likely that an in-market shopper will take the next step and head into a dealership."
Auto Brand Website Rankings
Acura ranks highest in customer satisfaction with its website (831 points) for a third consecutive time, followed by Mercedes-Benz (830) and Jaguar (828). Smart (816) is the highest-ranked non-luxury brand and ranks fourth overall; Lincoln (814) rounds out the top five. Overall satisfaction with automotive brand websites averages 798.
Based on the 2014 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study--Summer, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
- Consider third-party websites as well as OEM websites to get the full story on a vehicle's performance, comfort, user-friendliness, and other characteristics.
- Have an idea, before viewing an OEM website, whether you'll be buying or leasing a vehicle, and whether you'll be financing the purchase. Look for special deals such as cash-back and interest-free financing.
- Use video, if it's available, to see how a vehicle looks in action. This will also give some idea of the vehicle's performance.
About the Study
The 2014 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study--Summer is based on responses from more than 9,800 new-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months. The study was fielded from May 5 through May 20, 2014.