August 24, 2004, 12:00 AM

Online car buyers bypass dull manufacturer sites

New-vehicle shoppers who rate the usefulness of a manufacturer’s web site as high are much more likely to visit a dealer for a test drive, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

When it comes to manufacturers` web sites, online car buyers expect to find far more than just static pages, bland graphics and terse vehicle descriptions.

In fact, a new survey from J.D. Power & Associates says visitors and potential buyers to any auto manufacturer web site want interactive research tools and access to reams of inventory and pricing information.

By providing a superior site visitation experience, the payoff for manufacturers and their dealers is increased sales lead generation.

New-vehicle shoppers who rate the usefulness of a manufacturer’s web site as high are much more likely to visit a dealer for a test drive, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation study.

The study finds that manufacturer web sites continue to improve, which can have an important impact on both the generation of new-vehicle sales leads to dealers as well as in driving traffic to dealerships. After evaluating a manufacturer’s site, 66% of respondents rating the site as "outstanding" increased their likelihood to test drive a vehicle from that make, compared to only 21% of those rating the site as average or lower. Dealers are currently receiving, on average, 75% more online, new-vehicle leads from manufacturer web sites than they did in 2002, the automotive research firm reports.

"The most useful sites have upgraded with the latest in know-how for appearance, navigation and relevance, which can ultimately lead to increased sales," says Dennis Galbraith, senior director of research at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, because of ever-increasing consumer expectations, it’s not enough to simply maintain a good site. Even if a site performed well in the past, standing still can mean falling behind."

Highly useful sites generate excitement and are packed with easily accessible information right from the home page. The manufacturer sites that receive high ratings from shoppers tend to draw in the viewer with a crisp new-vehicle beauty shot and yet provide enough detail so shoppers leave the home page confident of where they are going next, Galbraith says.

 

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