In Britain, JD Power is well known for its annual car buyer satisfaction reports. The results matter. They’re the subject of intense scrutiny by the automotive and mainstream consumer press, with the winning brand trumpeting the achievement across mainstream media.
The global automotive industry is equally transfixed by JD Power’s manufacturer US website study. Now in its 16th year, the study scores four core areas: information/content, appearance, speed and navigation.
For 2015 the results cover 34 brands, with Porsche and BMW coming joint top and Chevrolet, Subaru and Honda at the foot of the table.
Despite being a US market study, the results are dissected in detail by the European, Japanese and Korean car brands because their website presence is broadly global.
The key 2015 finding according to senior director of JD Power Arianne Walker is that,
Manufacturers can influence shoppers by creating an emotionally connected online shopping experience through compelling, visually appealing storytelling to engage, entice, and reassure shoppers that they are making the right decision.
The evolution of the brand website
In context of the evolution of car brand websites, this is fascinating. As with many product sectors, the first car websites were merely digital brochures.
Moving into this century, sites became (and many remain) aggressive offer and pricing platforms, driving potential customers into a world of pricing confusion, well before they’ve established that the brand and a specific model can meet their needs.
With over 2m US sales in 2014, Chevrolet is a huge player, second only to Ford but ita website illustrates the problem with a barrage of retail offers and very little context, reflecting the position of chevrolet.com at third from bottom in the rankings.
At the other end of the scale, the approach of BMW owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is interesting and instructive.
Inside Rolls-Royce is a global programme focusing on the iconic significance of the brand and the stories behind the beautiful, obsessive and compelling craftsmanship in every one of their cars.
The communication target is not the prospective Rolls-Royce buyer, but the ‘choir’.
As transport, our car is one of a few possessions that we constantly present to people we will never know, but these strangers are increasingly likely to be not just content creator and publisher, but judge and jury.
Rolls-Royce understand that the future sales limitation won’t be money. There’s plenty about and for their target demographic it’s increasing. The limitation has become ‘permission to own’.
Rolls-Royce hits the challenge head on, curating the best of the advocacy content from the non-buyer audience. The choir that sets the agenda for ‘permission to own’, driving social acceptance, and publishing in real-time on Inside Rolls-Royce.
Among global car markets, the US has historically been the most commoditised.
The arcane European brand snobbery that allows big margins for the premium brand versions of technically equivalent products from the same group, doesn’t cut much ice in the land of smart buying, where customer service, product reliability and value rule the roost.
So, JD Power’s assertion that an emotionally connected story and visual storytelling are key to purchase consideration is even more compelling in the context of the US market.
What makes Porsche’s website so compelling?
Topping the results, Porsche has arguably the most compelling storytelling platform.
Through the Porsche Live platform, they ensure that every market website has an engaging live content mix that is always relevant for the user. The age-old problem of global vs local is eliminated, as the live story is always built on a global brand foundation, but is then embellished with a mix of brand, 3rd party editorial and user-generated advocacy content, at the market and retailer levels.
Cutting through the noise to bring a compelling but controlled content narrative to every decision point used to be very difficult. Porsche Live shows how it can done, and the implications and potential for every brand are clear to see.