NEW YORK — Third-party automotive websites are improving satisfaction by capturing the attention of car shoppers through increased use of the visual web and a streamlined approach to site navigation, according to J.D. Power’s 2016 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study.

In its fourth year, the study measures the usefulness of automotive third-party websites during the new- and used-vehicle shopping process by examining four key measures (in order of importance): information/content, appearance, navigation, and speed. Satisfaction is measured on a 1,000-point scale.

While the impact of appearance on third-party auto website satisfaction has increased at a steady pace to 24% in 2016 from 21% in 2013, J.D. Power officials said there exists a significant 83-point gap in satisfaction between third-party sites and manufacturer (OEM) websites (742 vs. 825, respectively).  Appearance is the highest scoring measure for auto manufacturer sites and the second lowest for third-party sites.

“The common bond among top-performing third-party auto sites is a heavy reliance on the ‘visual Web,’ with its very streamlined, easy-to-use site navigation features,” said Arianne Walker, senior director of marketing analytics at J.D. Power. “Expectations continue to increase, not only because auto manufacturers have such visually stimulating sites but because websites in many categories have focused on enhancing visual aesthetics and easy navigation.

“If third-party sites want to maintain and increase their usage among shoppers, they need to consider the impact appearance has on satisfaction and continually work to improve the look and feel of the website to keep up with the ever changing expectations of shoppers,” she added.

In 2016, overall satisfaction with automotive third-party websites averages 751, with TrueCar ranking highest (795), followed by CARFAX (793) and (775).

Fielded in January, the 2016 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study is based on evaluations from more than 5,000 new- and used-vehicle shoppers who indicate they will be in the market for a vehicle within the next 24 months. Websites evaluated in the study were selected based on meeting the following criteria: must be an automotive third-party site; have the ability for consumers to shop for both new and used vehicles; and be among the most frequently visited sites based on behavioral data.

Originally posted on F&I and Showroom