If auto manufacturers want potential customers to give their cars a test run, they need to provide an easy-to-use, content-rich website that appeals to both desktop and mobile users, according to a new study by American marketing information services provider J.D. Power and Associates.

Specifically, the company’s 2016 Canadian Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study discovered that 63 per cent of new-vehicle shoppers who enjoyed visiting a manufacturer’s website indicated they would be more likely to test drive a vehicle afterward, whereas only 21 per cent of disappointed website visitors said the same.

Potentially complicating matters for the car companies’ website programmers is what precisely creates an enjoyable experience: an attractive appearance and ease of navigation for desktop users, speed for mobile users, though information and content were the most important factor for both.

Visitors were almost evenly split when it came to their preferred method, researchers noted: last year 46 per cent of users visited manufacturer websites on a mobile device.

In a statement, J.D. Power’s manager of automotive practice in Canada, J.D. Ney, admitted the results presented a difficult balancing act; however he said that maintaining an effective website was “critical” if automotive brands wanted to attract and maintain customers in the very competitive Canadian market.

The study, which J.D. Power based on interviews conducted in February and March with more than 3,000 shoppers who indicated they would be in the market for a new vehicle within the next 24 months, evaluated the usefulness of automotive websites by measuring four key metrics – information/content, appearance, navigation, and speed – and using them to calculate customer satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale.

“Delighted” consumers – the ones who were more likely to test drive a vehicle after visiting a manufacturer’s website – had overall satisfaction scores of 901 or more, while “disappointed” visitors had satisfaction scores of 500 or below.

Overall, mobile users were more likely to find manufacturer websites less satisfying than their desktop counterparts, with satisfaction scores of 735 versus an average of 759 for desktop users.

If there’s a silver lining to the study it’s that the largest gaps between desktop and mobile device users were found in navigation and speed, which Ney noted were not incompatible – websites with high speed and performance scores tended to receive high satisfaction scores, and vice versa.

The study also examined the customer satisfaction ratings for several leading automotive brands. Lexus and Lincoln tied for first place with a score of 782, followed by Cadillac, which received a score of 781, Infiniti, which received a score of 779, and Jeep, which received a score of 775.

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