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2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Winter: Auto Shopper Satisfaction Impacted by Perceptions of Speed

2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Winter: Auto Shopper Satisfaction Impacted by Perceptions of Speed

By Joseph Dobrian, February 09, 2016
The volume of information on vehicle manufacturer websites sometimes interferes with fast, efficient collection of data by consumers. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and perceptions of site speed, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM—Winter. This problem could be especially acute during times when the website is experiencing many simultaneous hits: for example, during and shortly after a televised event that features many ads for cars and trucks.

Now in its 17th year, this semiannual study 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. In this most recent study, overall customer satisfaction with auto manufacturer websites is 808 (on a 1,000-point scale)—up from 797 in the 2015 Manufacturer Website Evaluation StudySM—Summer.

Speed apparently goes hand in hand with ease of use. As these websites become more elaborate and contain more illustrative information, they tend to get harder to navigate—especially when a consumer is building a prospective model or searching for detailed information about a vehicle’s features and specifications. The more steps involved in getting to the necessary information, the slower the process feels. The study shows that 42% of vehicle shoppers surveyed experienced a problem with speed in at least one area of the website.

Speed Causes Big Satisfaction Gap
Among that 42%, speed satisfaction averages 765, compared with 838 among shoppers who don’t experience a speed issue. The study also finds a 232-point gap in satisfaction between shoppers who experience no speed or navigation issues and those who experience three or more navigation issues and speed issues (845 vs. 613, respectively).

“Automakers just spent many millions of dollars on advertising during the Super Bowl to drive a massive amount of traffic to their respective digital showrooms; it’s critical that those websites perform at a level consistent with the manufacturer’s brand promise,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of marketing analytics at J.D. Power. “Auto manufacturers need to find the right balance between offering rich content and a robust Web experience that engages shoppers enough to get them to the dealer to take that next step. If the site has difficult navigation and perceived speed issues, shoppers may opt for another brand of interest.”

Build/Price Tools Sell, But Hamper Site Speed
One key finding of the study is that automakers’ websites are reliable conduits to an actual test drive. Among new-vehicle shoppers who say they are “delighted” with their experience on a manufacturer brand website (overall satisfaction scores of 901 or higher), 59% indicate they are more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the site, compared with only 18% of those who say they are “disappointed” (scores of 500 or below). Among the four study measures, navigation and information/content are the least satisfying for shoppers (800 each). Evidently, the build and price tools are most responsible for sub-par site performance, along with videos and interior and exterior 360-degree images.

Ram, with an overall satisfaction score of 838, ranks highest in manufacturer website satisfaction, followed by Porsche (836) and Mercedes-Benz (828).

Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • Avoid automaker websites at times when you know that a lot of customers will be visiting those sites. Instead, make a list of the information you might want to gather at a future time and then wait until traffic is a litle lighter.
  • Consider visiting the dealership and going through the website with a salesperson. The process will probably be faster, since you’ll save time by asking the salesperson questions rather than digging for the answers online.
  • Don’t use the build/price feature too much. Designing your dream vehicle can be an enjoyable process, but it’s time-consuming, and it’s best not to bother building vehicles you know you won’t want or can’t afford.

About the Study
The 2016 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study—Winter 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 from November 3 through November 17, 2015.

Additional Research:

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