The just-published J.D. Power 2016 New Autoshopper StudySM finds that consumers who use the internet during their new-vehicle shopping process are increasingly turning to social media websites as a source of information. Among automotive internet shoppers, 22% use a social media site as a source while shopping for their new vehicle—up from 16% in 2015. The most popular social media sites used by auto internet shoppers during the shopping process are YouTube (13%), DealerRater (7%), and Facebook (5%).
The 2016 New Autoshopper Study analyzes how buyers of new vehicles use digital devices—i.e., tablets, smartphones, and computers—to gather information prior to purchase, as well as which websites and apps they use during the shopping process. The study also examines the various types of content new-vehicle buyers access during their shopping process and identifies the content they find most useful.
“Social media plays a large role in many consumers’ lives, so it’s not surprising that it’s one of the tools they’re using during the vehicle-shopping process,” said Mike Battaglia, vice president, automotive retail at J.D. Power. “While we would not expect social media sites to compete head-on with designated auto shopping sites like Toyota.com and Kelley Blue Book, it’s easy to understand the role and relevance social plays in the automotive shopping process.”
Among automotive internet shoppers who use social media, only 13% indicate that the information posted on social media sites influenced their purchase decision, and only 2% say a social site was the “most useful site” they visited.
“Social media platforms aren’t as useful as automotive shopping websites for automotive information, but they do serve the needs of consumers for unbiased dealer reviews, affirmations from other vehicle owners, accessing automotive-related videos, and exchanging ideas and opinions with friends and family members,” said Battaglia.
However, according to the study, 34% of new-vehicle buyers who use social media for automotive information post a picture of their new vehicle on a social site. Facebook is by far the most popular site for posting vehicle photos—it gets 88% of the posts. Instagram runs a distant second, garnering 21% of vehicle photo posts. (Some consumers post to multiple sites.)
Other key findings of the study include:
- Auto shopping websites still run well ahead of social media in terms of the traffic they get from vehicle shoppers. The study finds that more than 90% of automotive internet shoppers visit at least one automaker’s site during the shopping process, while 84% visit a dealer site and 79% visit a third-party site. On average, internet shoppers visit 10 automotive websites in their shopping process: four automotive manufacturer websites, three third-party websites, and three dealership websites.
- On automotive shopping websites, the data most frequently viewed are model information (89%), vehicle pricing (88%), and photo galleries (81%). Automotive internet shoppers say that automotive brand websites are most useful for obtaining model information, vehicle configurators, and photo galleries, but they indicate that dealer websites are most useful for inventory searches and vehicle pricing. Third-party sites, according to the study, are most useful for vehicle ratings/reviews and vehicle comparisons.
- More than half (53%) of automotive internet shoppers use a mobile device to seek automotive information. For 2016, smartphone usage surpasses tablet usage (37% vs. 33%, respectively). The use of desktop or laptop computers remains most common at 92%, but has been steadily decreasing from 99% in 2012. The proportion of time spent shopping on mobile devices continues to increase, with 33% of total shopping time now conducted on a mobile device.
- The three most frequently visited third-party sites (in alphabetical order) are Consumer Reports, Edmunds.com, and Kelley Blue Book. These three have ranked at the top consistently since 2012. Among the 37 third-party websites measured in the study, TrueCar, for the second consecutive year, shows the largest increase in site visitation.
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
- Use social media to collect anecdotes and advice about various vehicle types, but use automaker sites to get the most accurate data.
- Third-party sites often provide unbiased comparisons of various models. However, many of their assessments are matters of opinion. Be sure to also reference verified owner ratings while conducting your research.
- Personal experience is the only true test. Use websites and social media as part of your pre-shopping process, but visit several dealers, test the products yourselves, and keep an open mind.
About the Study
The 2016 New Autoshopper Study is based on responses from 17,349 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 to 2016 model-year vehicles who used information gathered digitally during the shopping process. The study was fielded from February through June 2016.