J.D. Power: Product Info More Influential Than Price Online

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Product-related information influences more online vehicle shoppers researching models than does pricing information, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 New Autoshopper.com Study.

J.D. Power, Westlake Village, CA, said this is the first time product information surpassed pricing information in its study.

While some shoppers know which vehicle they are looking for before going online, the company said, 79 percent of automotive Internet users are affected in their selection by information discovered online, compared with 78 percent affected by how much they paid or offered for the vehicle purchased.

"Automotive Internet usage has gone through a tremendous transformation in its 10-year history," said Dennis Galbraith, senior director of online marketing solutions at J.D. Power and Associates. "Initially, the Internet was primarily thought of as a tool for getting the best price on a vehicle. Today, consumers are even more impacted by the Internet in which vehicle they buy than how much they pay for it."

J.D. Power also found that visits to automakers' Web sites continue to rise among all new vehicle buyers while independent sites (not controlled by a dealer or manufacturer) remain flat. Buyers said they rely most on manufacturer-sponsored sites for product information and on independent sites for price-related information.

The study also revealed that for every manufacturer, at least 80 percent of its Web site visitors visit at least one other manufacturer site before making a purchase decision.

"There is tremendous market share at stake in the battle to turn site visitors into buyers," Galbraith said. "Manufacturers will continue to move hundreds of millions of marketing dollars toward their online efforts and will become more efficient marketers in the process."

A record 67 percent of new vehicle buyers said they used the Internet in their shopping process, up from 64 percent in 2004, the study found. And 89 percent of these consumers visited a search engine or portal such as AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo as part of their shopping process.

Seventy-seven percent of these consumers visit at least one independent Web site and typically visit this type of site first in their shopping process, J.D. Power executives explained.

"Independent sites are likely to add robust tools to help shoppers identify the right vehicle across all brands for their particular preferences or lifestyle," Galbraith said. "There remains a great deal of content opportunity for independent sites."

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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