While most Canadians wouldn’t make a major purchase such as a new car online, they are doing a lot of research and the interactive tools and information they can access on automotive web sites can help make or break their purchase decision.

According to the J.D. Power 2015 Canadian Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study, interactive content is king when it comes to driving engagement and satisfaction among people looking for a new vehicle on an auto manufacturer’s website. The four key measures identified for automotive websites were information/content, appearance, speed and navigation.

The report says automotive companies that differentiate themselves with interactive content such as 360° views of the interior and exterior, build and price tools, and videos will have a big edge over their competitors. Still, J.D. Power said new car shoppers are looking for more.

“When searching for a vehicle on an OEM website, shoppers want to experience the vehicle as if they are walking around the vehicle or sitting in it in a dealer showroom. It’s virtual tire kicking,” said J.D. Ney, manager, automotive research and consulting at J.D. Power, in a statement. “OEMs have an opportunity to engage shoppers and romance them with interactive content about the vehicle on the website. The more a shopper knows about the vehicle, the greater the likelihood they will want to make the transition between the online showroom to the physical one and show up at a dealership for a test drive. This is a win-win for the shopper and the dealer.”

There’s a direct link between satisfaction with a web site experience and likelihood to buy. The report found 67 per cent of vehicle shoppers that were delighted with their website experience were more likely to test drive a vehicle, compared to 17 per cent who were disappointed. Some 41 per cent of people that used a build and price tool were likely to have a test drive, compared to 36 per cent that didn’t. An interactive 360° view was preferred over static photos, videos had a significant impact on website satisfaction, and imagery such as videos and images of a vehicle interior or exterior were more likely to be shared on social media than less visual content such as payment/lease calculator information.

Infiniti's website offers interactive views of vehicle interiors and exteriors.
Infiniti’s website offers interactive views of vehicle interiors and exteriors.

While the report was specific to the automotive industry, the lessons on interactivity and website experience helping to drive purchasing decisions will apply across markets.

The report ranked the major automotive vendors on overall satisfaction with their website, Infiniti came out on top, followed by Jeep, Lincoln and Volvo.

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