Anyone who has been to an automaker's consumer-facing Web site may have felt like grabbing a bucket of popcorn and a soda. The experience can be downright cinematic. Videos, interactive CGI, eye candy, storytelling, editorial content, and much more engaging research and shopping tools are the norm.
How useful to car shoppers is all of this fun? It depends on how well the pieces fit together, per J.D. Power and Associate's semiannual 2015 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study, which measures information/content, appearance, speed and navigation.
The study, based on responses in May from more than 9,600 new-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months, says mating rich imagery with “Concise, informative text and interactive content” is table stakes. Information/content and Web site appearance are the two most important measures contributing to overall customer satisfaction with the sites.
Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media and marketing solutions at the firm, said in a statement on the new study that the key is an emotionally connected online shopping experience, achieved “through compelling, visually appealing storytelling to engage, entice, and reassure shoppers that they are making the right decision.”
The two most-improved brand sites in this study? BMW and Volvo, thanks to enhanced visual imagery of their sites that connects shoppers to their vehicles through storytelling. BMW and Porsche rank highest overall, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, Fiat, Mini, Cadillac, Ford, and Chrysler. Hyundai is just above the industry median score. Below it are Volkswagen, GMC, Lincoln, Nissan, Volvo, Smart, Toyota and Acura. The four worst-performing OEM sites belong to Buick Chevrolet, Subaru and, in last place, Honda.
The study finds that among new-vehicle shoppers who say they are “delighted” with their experience on a manufacturer brand website, 57% say they are more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting the site, compared with only 13% of those who say they are “disappointed,”
The study finds that large proportions of in-market shoppers view both exterior images (82%) and interior images (80%) on the site, and satisfaction is higher among the 49% of shoppers who watch at least one video on a manufacturer’s site than it is among those who do not watch a video.