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2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Summer: Usage of Shopping Tools on Auto Manufacturer Websites Boosts Consumer Satisfaction

2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Summer: Usage of Shopping Tools on Auto Manufacturer Websites Boosts Consumer Satisfaction

By Joseph Dobrian, July 21, 2016
Automaker websites are not only a useful tool for consumers shopping for a new vehicle, but they can also improve buyer satisfaction, according to the recently published J.D. Power 2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM—Summer.

This semiannual study, now in its 17th year, measures the usefulness of automotive manufacturer websites during the process of shopping for a new vehicle by examining four key measures (in order of importance): information/content, appearance, speed, and navigation. The study calculates satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale, and for this study, overall customer satisfaction with auto manufacturer websites stands at 807 points.

The quality of content on manufacturer websites is the primary driver of satisfaction, which nearly all new-vehicle shoppers use to gather information before visiting a dealer showroom. More than half (57%) of shoppers whom the study classifies as delighted with their website experience (overall satisfaction scores of 901 and above) indicate they are more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the site. By comparison, only 16% of those who are classified as disappointed with their experience (scores of 500 or below) indicate they’re more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the website.

“The content on manufacturer websites must embody three key attributes: It must be easy to access. It must provide sufficient detail to answer shoppers’ questions. And it must help tell the brand story,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of marketing analytics at J.D. Power. “There’s a direct connection between manufacturers that utilize their digital showroom effectively and satisfied shoppers who then become buyers.”

According to the J.D. Power Online-to-Offline (O2O®) analytics benchmarks, automakers should not neglect the monitoring and improvement of both their website content and the available shopping tools. New-vehicle shoppers have come to expect to find such tools as configurators; compare tool; exterior 360-degree view; interior 360-degree view; offers/incentives; and payment calculator when they visit a site. Many of these tools correlate directly and positively with both consumer satisfaction and with vehicle purchase.

“Gen Y shoppers—soon to be the largest group of new-vehicle shoppers—use these tools at higher rates than Boomers, signifying that manufacturers must continue to invest in and improve website tools in response to shifts in the car-buying population,” Walker said.

Good Website Experience Can Help Brand Image
Among the key findings of the 2016 summer study is the determination that a positive experience on the website drives improved brand image perception. According to the study, through pre/post brand perception measurements, 40% of shoppers have an improved impression of the brand following their website experience. A positive website experience helps drive a brand’s key qualities, including some harder-to-change consumer perceptions, such as a brand’s reputation and reliability. Gen Y shoppers (those born from 1977-1994) tend to show a more positive perception of a brand after the website visit, compared with Boomers (1946-1964).

Land Rover boasts the highest-performing website, with an overall satisfaction score of 834. Following in second is Jaguar (833), and Mercedes-Benz (831) in third.

Consumer Tips
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • Familiarize yourself with the various tools available on most automakers’ websites (such as the configurator, payment calculator, and 360-degree views) and do a practice run or two on a manufacturer’s site before beginning the serious shopping process.
  • Visit as many manufacturer websites as is practicable, and familiarize yourself with each maker’s good/better/best offerings.
  • As you visit each website, compose a list of questions you’ll want to ask a dealer in person (with regard to availability of features, flexibility of configuration, and payment plans, among others).

About the Study
The 2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Summer is based on responses from more than 9,500 new-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months. The study was fielded May 3-17, 2016.

Additional Research:

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