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UPDATE 28/10/2013: Michael Notté did two excellent study back in 2008 and 2009 covering this market, we added some comparative from these study in order to provide market evolution over time.

Introduction

The car industry is a big market dominated by just under 100 vendors, their web sites have become their biggest showcase for their products.  In 2012 it was reported by Polk that 75 percent of consumers research cars online before going to the dealers to sign on the dotted line. Because of this, the car industry has been putting a lot of energy on their websites in order to show off their products in the most beautiful and effective way. This study is to take a closer look at what this industry is using analytic wise by compiling a list of who is using what analytic solution.

Our Method

We compiled a list of the 75 biggest brands in the automotive industry. For each of those brands we picked the best websites for a North American Customer. We categorized the list in regions; America, Europe and Asia and by type; Main brand, Luxury, Exotic and Electric.

Using special audit agents running against our Automated Analytic Auditing platform, Ethan, we audited the home page of each of those brands in order to gather performance information on the sites and the list of analytic tools running. The audit was conducted in October of 2013.

Executive Summary

As expected, the Luxury and Main automotive vendors are the most sophisticated when it comes to analytics, the most popular analytic solutions are Clickstream analytics, Advertising, Voice of Customer, targeting. Tag Management, even if fairly new, is quite popular in this industry showing interest in keeping up with current analytic trends. There is a large fragmentation of vendors in this industry that could be explained by the explosion of specialized analytic vendors. 20 different vendors were detected in the clickstream analytic only.

The 32 Main brand

The bulk of our study has been against what we call, the Main brand;  Ford, GM, Chrysler, VW, Honda, Toyota and others of the world.

What kind of analytic tools are they using ?

Out of the 32 Main brands, 30 of them are running some sort of click stream analytic tools. It is the most popular category followed closely by advertising tools. This industry has been advertising in every channel possible since forever, so it is not surprising that 81% are now running ad network tags on their sites, with 44% using visitor targeting tools, confirming most of them are using advance analytics in order to target their customers better. Voice of Customer has been popular in this segment over the years and just under 50% of them are running surveys on their homepage. Tag Management is also gaining in popularity, close to 50% are running some kind of tag management system. It’s a prime market for tag managers since the main automotive vendor have complex web sites and they are all doing advance analytics requiring the flexibility brought by Tag Management.

What Vendors for clickstream analytics ?

The first thing we notice once we analyze the data was the number of vendors, 20 distinct vendors are involved with just over 30 car manufacturer in our Main vendor category. A couple year ago, we noticed in the retail industry that market consolidation was reducing the number of vendors in the top 100 internet retailers, this effect does not seem to be happening in this industry.

Adobe is the leader among this category  with 53% penetration, Google being second with 44% (one site only was using Universal Analytic), right behind are Sophus3 and Datalogix follow by the rest of the pack with each less than 13% market share. 2 manufacturer were not using any analytics, Daihatsu who is not present in North America and Isuzu who is no longer manufacturing passenger cars, only light trucks. Interesting fact, IBM is not present in this industry at all.

Comparative from 2008 and 2009

The actual analysis from Michael were based on the European market only so we will compare to the same market. In 2008, Sophus3 (31%), Google (23%) and WebTrend (18%) were the big leaders. Sophus3 and WebTrend were covering almost 50% of the market with Omniture right behind
In 2009, Google Analytics (47%) had a big boost and on the commercial side, Sophus3 (37%) and Omniture 16%)  were also gaining market share to the detriment of WebTrend.  Today in Europe across all car type, Google is now 70%+ of the market with  Sophus3 now at 15% and Adobe/Omniture at 13%, WebTrend was not detected on any web sites.
Please note that Michael was using European web site and we are using mostly the american web site of European vendors, looks like WebTrends is still running on many European site like Honda, BMW, Toyota and others, will update soon with new data. 

What about Tag Management ?

This is certainly a hot topic in analytics these days, and the car industry is right up there with 41% of them using some sort of tag management. Bright Tag being the leader with 25% market penetration, followed by  Ensighten with 6% and the rest a 3% each.

Voice of Customer

This is a hard one to measure because we know some time the tags are not on the homepage or even some sites only run surveys at specific times so this data may be taken with a grain of salt. This field used to be dominated by Foresee and iPerceptions, but now, a few vendors are creeping in, 50% of the web sites were actively running survey tags and ForeSee was detected 22% of the time.

Across att type and regions

Splitting the data by manufacturing regions

What about distribution from manufacturing regions across all types of vehicles, from the biggest brand to the smaller handmade car vendors? Clickstream analytics and advertising solutions are more popular with Asian vendors, but the US seems to have a better grasp of Tag Management and VoC.

What about by car type?

What if we map this by type of cars now.  From luxurious to exotics, seems like all vendors are doing clickstream analytics to some level, more than 75% across the board and the Luxury and Main type of manufacturers are pretty sophisticated since they are doing Targeting, Tag management and Voice of Customer analytics. The high tech electric vehicle category is not that high tech, analytic wise. Even Telsa, who could be in the Luxury category, does some lead management but not much else. Exotic car vendor shave the most “none” (not running any analytic on their web site). That could be related to the size of those companies, but still, when car performance analytics is so important to their racing success, I would hope they would do a little more on the digital side.

Performance

Page load time by manufacturer type

The average load time for all sites where around 4 seconds, being very good considering the complexity of some of those web sites. Le luxury category had the best time overall with the slowest (2 of them) slightly over 6 seconds.

Page load time by site in the main category

Almost half the sites are close to 2.5 second page load time and 75% of them are around the mythical 4 seconds mark. Only 2 sites are over 8 seconds, MG and Subaru.

Interesting fact, the fastest web site is [sc:lambo] with a page load time of just under 400ms, most of their cars do  0-60 Mph in less then 4 sec, I bet site designers had very explicit directives about site performance.

Tag load time by site in the main category

All the analytic vendors show very good performance and this is expected in all cases. one VoC vendor boosting the maximum to over 5 seconds and the average with an average load time 1.5 second, the rest of the VoC vendors are quite performant. The Clickstream analytic vendors are all around 200ms load time except for 2 vendors close to 1 second. As you would expect all Tag Manager vendors had excellent performance.

Conclusion

The automotive industry is quite a large market and you can tell the largest shareholder of that market, the Main and Luxury category, are taking analytics very seriously. I am sure if we audited a few more pages per web sites, a lot more solutions would have popped up, but it is outside of this scope. I am also glad to see they are keeping up with technology, the use of Tag Management is growing and I think it’s also a good side of their analytic commitment.

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