June 15, 2004

Good manufacturer website brings customers to dealerships

Westlake Village, CA – 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 percent of respondents rating the site as “outstanding” increased their likelihood to test drive a vehicle from that make, compared to only 21 percent of those rating the site as average or lower. Dealers are currently receiving, on average, 75 percent more online, new-vehicle leads from manufacturer Web sites than they did in 2002.

“The most useful sites have upgraded with the latest in know-how for appearance, navigation and relevance, which can ultimately lead to increased sales,” said 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.

“The challenge for Web designers is to provide detail without clutter, or else risk losing the excitement of the beauty shot,” said Galbraith. “A well-designed Web site allows the shopper to be in control, keeping information tucked away, albeit in obvious places, until the user is ready for it.”

The Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study is designed to measure usefulness based on the relative importance of site design, features and usage. Wave 1 of the study includes the experiences of more than 10,200 Internet users who intend to purchase a vehicle within the next two years.

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