2015 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study--Winter Results
By Jeff Youngs,
The "build and price" function is the tool most frequently used by automobile shoppers who visit automakers' websites. According to the J.D. Power 2015 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM--Winter, 85% of in-market shoppers build and price a new vehicle when they shop on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) website. The study finds that the build and price tool can significantly improve customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood that they will visit a dealership for a test drive.
The semiannual study, now in its 16th year, 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. The study measures satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale.
High Satisfaction Scores among Build and Price Tool Users
Satisfaction is significantly higher among shoppers who use the build and price tool than among those who do not (801 vs. 770, respectively). Among new-vehicle shoppers who say they are "delighted" with their experience on an OEM's website (overall satisfaction scores of 901 or higher), 64% indicate they're more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the manufacturer's site, compared with 20% of those who are "disappointed" (satisfaction scores of 500 or below) with a visit to the OEM website.
"There is fierce competition in the automotive industry and a manufacturer's website is a key channel for OEMs to show in-market shoppers why they should purchase their vehicles," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media & marketing solutions at J.D. Power. "In fact, the build and price tool is a key differentiator in the online shopping experience for consumers, creating a more satisfying, useful experience when it is well designed. It is critical to help shoppers understand the value of a vehicle as well as the benefits of vehicle trims and accessories, and to help them identify where they can find the vehicle of interest to test drive."
The study finds that two primary reasons drive shoppers' use of the build and price tool: to determine whether a vehicle fits in their budget (35%) and to build an ideal vehicle with every feature and accessory they desire (29%). Premium brand shoppers (33%) are more likely to use the build and price tool to build their ideal vehicle vs. non-premium shoppers (26%). Non-premium shoppers are more likely to use the tool for budget reasons (38%) than are premium shoppers (29%).
Jeep, Infiniti, Jaguar Websites Rank Highest
Jeep's OEM website ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction (816), followed by Infiniti and Jaguar in a tie (815 each) and Cadillac and Porsche in a tie (814 each). Overall satisfaction with automotive brand websites averages 795. In addition to the build and price tool, shoppers use OEM websites to find a vehicle in their shopping area (59%); research vehicle information (50%); and research price-related information (49%).
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
- When choosing vehicle features using an OEM website's build and price tool, divide the available options into three categories: "must have," "nice to have," and "not important." Then try to build the vehicle at the lowest possible price without forgoing your most highly sought after features.
- Print out your fully designed vehicle, or save it to your mobile device, and bring it to the dealership. The dealer might help you to get the most features for the lowest price, or might advise you to add or drop a feature.
- Many experts advise that a premium vehicle with few or no options is a better buy than a non-premium vehicle loaded with every option. In some cases that may be true, but it's best to use the online tool to build both vehicles to make that determination.
- Remember that the vehicle price is not always set in stone, regardless of what price is calculated on the manufacturer website. In many cases, there is still room for negotiation.
About the Study
The 2015 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study--Winter 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 November 5, 2014, through November 24, 2014.