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OEM and Third-Party Websites Serve Different Needs, Study Says

October 06, 2009

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Although new-vehicle buyers visit automotive manufacturer Websites and third-party automotive Websites at the same rate during the shopping process, buyers rely on each type of Website for different types of information, according to the 2009 Website Performance Tools Report — Wave 1.

During the six-month period preceding a new-vehicle purchase, more than three in four new-vehicle buyers use the Internet to shop for their vehicle. Sixty-six percent of all new-vehicle buyers visit at least one automotive brand Website during this timeframe. Likewise, 66 percent of new-vehicle buyers visit a third-party automotive Website during the same time period. However, while overall usage rates are the same for these two different types of sites, the reasons that buyers visit them vary widely.

Among third-party Websites, such as AutoTrader.com, Edmunds.com and kbb.com, buyers most frequently access features and tools such as inventory search capability, product reviews and trade-in information. Overall, 31 percent of buyers who visit Edmunds.com access the site's vehicle reviews, while 55 percent of buyers who visit kbb.com use the site's trade-in information pages. Among new-vehicle buyers visiting AutoTrader.com, 61 percent use the site's inventory search tool.

In contrast, buyers who visit automotive brand Websites while shopping most often use vehicle configuration features and seek out information about local dealerships and special offers. Among manufacturer Websites, Ford, Honda and Toyota garner particularly high visitation rates from buyers. The report also finds that among buyers who visit specific brand Websites, sales close rates vary widely. For example, among vehicle buyers who visit the GMC Website, 34 percent ultimately purchase a GMC vehicle. However, among buyers who visit the Saturn Website, the close rate is just 4 percent.

"By understanding the different patterns of usage among actual new-vehicle buyers, both automotive brands and third-party automotive publishers may optimize their sites to provide the information used most often by the visitors they care most about — actual buyers," said Arianne Walker, director of marketing and media research at J.D. Power and Associates. "For manufacturers, improving sites may help maintain in-market shoppers throughout the shopping process. For third-party sites, improvements may help attract in-market, new-vehicle buyers, thus increasing advertising opportunities on the sites."

The report finds that, at six months prior to their vehicle purchase, one in four new-vehicle buyers visits a manufacturer Website and one in four buyers visits a third-party site. However, this Website visitation rate of buyers increases considerably during the month of purchase, with 34 percent of buyers visiting a manufacturer site and 33 percent visiting a third-party site.

"As buyers get closer to making their final purchase decision, particularly during the month of purchase, there is an increase in tool usage,” said Skip Streets, executive director of sales, automotive at Compete Inc. “For example, more users use vehicle configuration tools, particularly on automotive brand Websites. To support buyers throughout the entire shopping process, both types of sites need to provide the various kinds of information new-vehicle buyers are looking for through easy-to-find, easy-to-use tools."

The semi-annual Web Site Performance Tools Report, which is a collaborative effort between J.D. Power and Associates and Compete Inc., examines automotive Website usage patterns among new-vehicle buyers during the six months preceding their vehicle purchase. For the first time, in an alliance with Compete, J.D. Power and Associates has used clickstream technology to track actual Website visitation patterns of these buyers, apart from those of non-buyers.

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