Study Finds Dealers Are Doing a Poor Job of Web Site Personalization

by Tracey E. Schelmetic

Are car dealers trying to market and sell according to “antiquated notions” about how consumers shop for and buy vehicles? Yes, according to a new white paper by Affinitiv entitled, “Predictive Personalization: The Evolution of the Customer Experience.” The white paper is based on a survey of 1,000 automotive consumers that found that online shopping experiences offered by most dealerships fail to meet customer expectations.

Dealerships are notably falling short in the area of personalization. While 76 percent of recent car buyers said it was important for the dealer’s web site to feature elements of personalization, only 26 percent of respondents agreed that dealers provide a highly personalized experience on their web sites.

“The web site is often the first point of contact with a dealership, but most dealer websites were built using unsophisticated technologies that reflect an antiquated notion of how consumers buy cars,” said Doug Van Sach, Affinitiv’s Vice President, Strategy & Analytics, in a statement. “To meet customer expectations, auto retailers must evolve their shopping experience to match the precedent set by retailers in other industries.”

Consumers are becoming accustomed to personalized web shopping thanks to retailing giants like Amazon, which does an excellent job of providing a bespoke browsing and shopping experience for most users. The lack of personalization on dealer sites seems particularly egregious to customers used to being presented with custom shopping experiences.

The Affinitiv survey found that vehicle shoppers are particularly interested in a personalized shopping experience in three areas: vehicles of interest to them, vehicle features and vehicles within their budgets. While 65 percent of consumers want web sites to personalize vehicles of interest, only 47 percent of dealer web sites proactively recommend vehicles of interest-based on the customer’s browsing behavior. Fifty-eight percent of consumers want vehicle recommendations based on specific features of interest, but in the study sample of web sites, not a single dealer web site recommended vehicles based on features of interest.

“Considering its high importance, recommending vehicles with relevant features is one of the single greatest opportunities for dealer websites to increase conversion rates and better meet the expectations of online shoppers,” said Van Sach.