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2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study Results

2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study Results

By Jeff Youngs,
Video presentations on automotive websites are important to shoppers, whether these websites belong to a manufacturer or a third party. Thus, third-party websites that offer easy access to, and use of, video presentations are more likely to engage vehicle purchasers. The just-published J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation StudySM finds that new- and used-vehicle shoppers who are able to access and use videos on third-party automotive websites during the shopping process are significantly more satisfied with their experience than are those who do not use video: 811 vs. 733, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale.

Additionally, 48% of shoppers who are planning to purchase a vehicle during the next month say that videos are "very important" in helping them make their purchase decision, compared with 36% in 2013.

The 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study is based on evaluations from more than 3,300 new- and used-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months. This second annual study was fielded in January 2014. Websites evaluated in the study were selected based on meeting the following criteria: must be a third-party automotive site; have the ability for consumers to shop for both new and used vehicles; and be among the most frequently visited sites based on behavioral data.

Video Becomes More Important as Shoppers Get Closer to Purchase
One of the key findings of the study is that 68% of shoppers indicate that videos are important in their online vehicle shopping process. Videos become increasingly important as shoppers get closer to purchasing a vehicle, with 35% of those within 6 months of purchase saying videos are "very important" vs. 20% of shoppers whose purchase is 6 months or more away saying the same. Among shoppers who use videos to assist them in the vehicle shopping process, 28% say they want more videos that demonstrate specific features, while 26% say they want more videos that demonstrate vehicles in real-life use.

"As the Web continues to become more visual, in part as a result of increasing bandwidth and easily accessible Wi-Fi, consumers are expecting to access rich content through the use of videos," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media & marketing at J.D. Power. "That said, it's important for third-party websites to maintain the valuable content they provide through still shots and text that allow consumers to access detailed information, and then continue to engage them with video as they get deeper into the shopping process."

According to Walker, "It's still important to provide images and text to help shoppers understand a vehicle; however, some vehicle features are more exciting to consumers and easier to illustrate with video, such as infotainment systems, vehicle handling and emerging technology."

The study measures the usefulness of third-party automotive websites during the new- and used-vehicle shopping process by examining four key factors (in order of importance): information/content; navigation; appearance; and speed.

Website Rankings
In 2014, overall satisfaction with third-party automotive websites averages 748. ranks highest in the study with a score of 786. (783) and U.S. News Best Cars (764) follow in the rankings.

Consumer Tips
Based on the 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • While all vehicles can be boiled down to exact numbers, specs, and statistics, opinions on their looks, comfort, drivability, and performance can be subjective, and vary greatly. Therefore, it's best to collect opinions from several different third-party websites.
  • Collect data from trade and consumer publications, as well as from the Web.
  • To compare directly competing models, use your search engine to find "best [luxury sedan, pickup truck, SUV, or whatever you're looking for]." You'll find a selection of third-party websites that will provide comprehensive reviews of the models.
  • There's no substitute for the real thing. You might use manufacturers' and third-party websites to put together a list of possible vehicles, but don't commit to a certain make or model until you've spoken with several dealers and test-driven several vehicles.

Additional Research:

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