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2017 U.S. Automotive Website Evaluation Study Cross-Device: Delivering Great Content is Key No Matter What Device Consumers Use

2017 U.S. Automotive Website Evaluation Study Cross-Device: Delivering Great Content is Key No Matter What Device Consumers Use

By Joseph Dobrian, March 30, 2017

Content is king, at least in the jungle of automotive websites. The just-published J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Website Evaluation Study Cross-DeviceSM finds that, in general, third-party auto websites have a variety of individual strengths and weaknesses in terms of content delivery. The study examines websites that vary as to specific function, but that all deliver information to prospective automotive vehicle customers. The study examines which current site functions and designs are most effective in helping shoppers narrow their consideration set and increasing their likelihood to recommend and return to that website.



“Over the past five years, we’ve seen an explosion of innovation that has been employed by third-party automotive sites, among others, to guide automotive shoppers through the process,” said Thomas King, vice president of PIN OEM operations, media & marketing at J.D. Power. “However, in the end, it always comes back to content and we have found that the top-performing sites are better at delivering key information on different devices.”

2017 U.S. Automotive Website Evaluation Study Cross-DeviceThe redesigned study concurrently evaluates automotive third-party websites from two perspectives, across both the desktop and the mobile platform: overall site function, and the importance of various site features to online shoppers.

Kelley Blue Book, the study shows, provides comprehensive vehicle viewing information, including 360-degree interior/exterior views, as well as intuitive dealer locator and inventory search tools. The latter are especially important to shoppers who are immediately involved in the vehicle selection process.

The study ranks satisfaction with desktop and mobile rankings platforms separately. Both rankings are based on the combined index scores of the four measures that comprise the overall website experience: navigation; appearance; information/content; and speed. The study bases satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale.

Satisfaction Builds Repeat Visits
Among the four main measures, website satisfaction is lowest for navigation. Shoppers using a desktop computer (762) have a significantly better experience when navigating automotive websites, compared with mobile users (754). Across all measures and attributes, those shopping for new vehicles have a more satisfying experience than used/certified pre-owned vehicle shoppers (773 vs. 755, respectively). The largest gap is for vehicle pricing information (754 vs. 726, respectively).

The study finds that 76% of highly satisfied shoppers (overall satisfaction scores of 901 or higher) using third-party websites say they “definitely will” return to the website in the future, and 75% say they “definitely will” recommend the site. Only 3% of displeased shoppers (scores of 500 or less) say they “definitely will” return, and only 2% say they “definitely will” recommend the site.

Cars.com, Kelley Blue Book Rank Highest
According to the study, Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book are the top-ranked car website brands in desktop and mobile satisfaction. The study reveals that Cars.com offers detailed information on vehicle features and specifications, as well as an intuitive system of accessing that information. Cars.com offers many tools to help shoppers choose the right vehicle, including:

  • multiple financial calculators
  • inventory search
  • reviews from consumers, experts, and dealers


Cars.com ranks highest in overall satisfaction with automotive third-party desktop websites (798), followed by Edmunds.com (797) and Carfax (785). Kelley Blue Book ranks highest in overall satisfaction with automotive third-party mobile websites (794), followed by CarGurus (790), The Car Connection (782), and U.S. News Best Cars (782).

When considering website rankings, consumers should understand the differences among third-party automotive websites, in terms of the type of information they provide, and should develop different expectations with regard to each website.

About the Study
The 2017 U.S. Automotive Website Evaluation Study Cross-Device is based on 8,525 evaluations of automotive websites by new- and used-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a vehicle within the next 24 months, with 4,259 being desktop evaluations and 4,266 being mobile evaluations. The study was fielded in January 2017.

Websites evaluated in the study were selected based on meeting the following criteria:

  • must be an automotive third-party site
  • must have the ability for consumers to shop for both new and used vehicles
  • must be among the most frequently visited sites based on behavioral data

Additional Research:


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