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2017 U.S. New Autoshopper Study: ‘Disruptive’ Website/App Users Spend More Time Researching Vehicles before Purchasing

2017 U.S. New Autoshopper Study: ‘Disruptive’ Website/App Users Spend More Time Researching Vehicles before Purchasing

By Joseph Dobrian, September 14, 2017

The recently published J.D. Power 2017 U.S. New Autoshopper StudySM reveals that users of new and unconventional websites and apps—such as Zappos, Netflix, Uber, and AirBnB—spend more time using their smartphones to conduct research on new vehicles prior to visiting an auto dealership.

The study, fielded from February through June 2017, analyzes how new-vehicle buyers use digital devices—tablets, smartphones, and computers—to gather information prior to purchasing a new vehicle, as well as which websites and apps they use during the shopping process. The study examines which types of content they access during their shopping process, and which content they find most useful. This year, the study also explores the behavior of users of so-called “disruptive” websites and apps that consumers use in their everyday life.

Users of disruptive websites and apps comprise 13% of new-vehicle buyers who use automotive shopping sites. They tend to be younger than the average new-vehicle buyer, but not by much: 33% of Gen Y (those born 1977 to 1994) are users, 18% of Gen X (1965-1976) and 6% of Boomers (1946-1964) and Pre-Boomers (born before 1946) also fall into the disruptive user category.

“It is important that we understand the automotive shopping patterns of disruptors, as it gives us a look into the future of what the digital auto shopping ecosystem may look like, as more and more consumers embrace these disruptive websites and apps,” said Sean Weingarten, Director, Automotive Retail Practice at J.D. Power. “It’s not just young people—it’s anyone who is open to the adoption of completely new experiences.”

Users of disruptive websites and apps don’t differ dramatically, in their shopping patterns, from new-vehicle buyers who don’t use them. Both groups need about four months to shop for and buy their new vehicle—but disruptive site users spend far more total hours conducting automotive research on the internet than non-users (19 hours vs. 12, respectively) and visit more automotive shopping sites (12 sites vs. nine sites). Users of disruptive technologies also visit more third-party sites, and are far more likely to use smartphones to conduct automotive research (69%) than are non-users (38%).

Automotive Research on Mobile Devices on the Rise
About five of every nine (56%) automotive internet shoppers conduct product research on a mobile device. Smartphone usage continues to trend upward in 2017 (42% compared with 37% in 2016), while tablet usage goes slightly lower (32% vs. 33% in 2016). The average internet shopper spends 13 hours conducting automotive research online, of which they spend 36% on mobile devices.

Third-party Website Leaders Remain Unchanged
The three most frequently visited third-party sites, of the 35 included in the study, have remained consistent since 2012: Kelley Blue Book (41%), Edmunds (29%), and Consumer Reports (23%). However, both Edmunds and Consumer Reports show notable drops in visitation this year: down 3 and 7 percentage points, respectively, compared with last year.

Influencing the Purchase Funnel
More than half (53%) of automotive internet shoppers indicate that they knew the make or model of the vehicle they wanted to purchase before beginning to shop, and did indeed buy the intended vehicle. The percentage of buyers who know the exact model they intend to buy at the start of the process has increased sharply, from 28% in 2016 to 37% this year. Thus, the average number of vehicles a shopper considers has dropped significantly—and so has the average number of dealers visited.

Consumer Tips
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following tips:
  • Buy the vehicle, not the website. The most attractive, compelling, easy-to-use website might not be selling the vehicle that’s right for you.
  • Use websites and apps to facilitate the purchasing process, not to substitute for face-time with a dealer. The website can help you develop a “wish list,” as well as a list of questions to ask the dealer face-to-face.
  • Use your remote device to compare prices on the sale or lease of various makes and models, as well as financing options, but remember that there’s still usually plenty of room for negotiating in the showroom.

About the Study
The 2017 U.S. New Autoshopper Study is based on responses from 18,393 purchasers and lessees of new 2015 to 2017 model-year vehicles who used information gathered digitally during their shopping process.

Additional Research:

Untitled Document

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