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Online Price Comparison Websites A Mystery Shopping Survey

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					             Online Price Comparison Websites

                     A Mystery Shopping Survey
Technical report and Management Summary for research
   conducted by Ipsos MORI for Moneysupermarket.com


                                 February/ March 2008
Technical Details
Survey Methodology
A mystery shopping study was designed in order to replicate the customer
experience while shopping online for motor insurance quotes. This enabled
independent, objective and consistent quotations to be obtained across the six online
comparison websites, using a number of different scenarios.

All enquiries were conducted at the end of February 2008.

Scenarios
100 scenarios were designed by Ipsos MORI containing all the information required
across all six comparison websites being tested in order to obtain a motor insurance
quote. The only details not specified were name, address, telephone number and
email address - mystery shoppers entered their own personal details in these fields.

The majority of variables remained consistent with the key determinants of cost being
varied across the scenarios.
The make and model of the cars used in the exercise were selected at random,
ensuring a spread of manufacturer, age and engine size. Included within the list
were several speciality or premium cars and also the top selling eight cars currently
in the UK.
Five different driver ages were used; 18, 21, 35, 50 and 65 and the number of years
licence held and no claims bonus was varied accordingly across these ages, ranging
from less than one year, three years, six years, ten years or 20 years for licence held,
and none, two, four, six, eight or ten for number of years of no claims bonus.

Enquiries were carried out across 11 specified regions and within each region
different postcodes were used at random. Occupation and industry sector were also
varied and an even number used within each region.

Each mystery shopper was given a scenario and was required to obtain one quote
per comparison website. In total therefore 600 searches were carried out, 100 to
each comparison website. The same scenario details were used for each online
website to ensure comparable findings and consistency. For each scenario the six
enquiries were carried out one after the other to ensure that any differentiation in the
findings was not a result of timing variation in the market. The majority of enquiries
were conducted Thursday to Sunday to avoid the busiest days of the week for the
websites.
Summary of Findings
Background and Objectives
Online comparison shopping is a fast growing and exciting sector with thousands of
people using an expanding number of cost comparison websites each day, to
compare and buy a wide range of products such as personal finance, broadband and
holidays. Moneysupermarket.com are one of a number of organisations offering
such a service in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace.

Research was required to evaluate how moneysupermarket.com perform compared
to their key competitors, specifically focussing on online motor insurance quotes.
The key objective of the study being to provide comparable findings which may be
published by moneysupermarket.com, to determine which online comparison website
is more likely to provide the best rates for customers.

The study focussed on searching and comparing motor insurance quotes among the
following leading comparison websites:

                  Moneysupermarket.com
                  TescoCompare
                  uSwitch
                  Comparethemarket.com
                  Confused.com
                  GoCompare

In total 600 searches were carried out across the six websites; 100 enquiries per
online comparison site.

Key Findings
Given the differing nature of quotes returned across each of the comparison websites
i.e. many included a vast number of special offers, discounts and additional features
such as free breakdown cover, courtesy cars etc, making an assessment on the full
offer would be incredibly complex and may open the research up to question.
Assessment was therefore made solely on annual premium returned.

Overall, moneysupermarket.com performed well, returning the lowest, or equal
lowest, annual car insurance quote in 42 enquiries out of 100 completed; this was
well ahead of its nearest rival, TescoCompare which found the cheapest, or equal
cheapest, quote in 22 out of the 100 tests.

Moneysupermarket.com provided the lowest quote across a range of cars, petrol and
diesel and both manual and automatic, from the latest models to cars registered in
1989.




The findings across all the comparison websites are as follows:
                                           Number of scenarios where
              Comparison Website
                                         lowest annual premium returned

          1. Moneysupermarket.com                         42

          2. TescoCompare                                 22

          3. Confused.com                                 19

          4. GoCompare                                    17

          5. Comparethemarket                             13

          6. uSwitch                                      8
*

please note these figures denote the number of occasions where the lowest or equal
lowest number of quotes was returned

As can be noted uSwitch only returned the cheapest or equal cheapest annual
premium in 8 out of the 100 of the tests, with Confused.com, GoCompare and
Comparethemarket all providing the lowest or equal lowest annual car insurance
quote in less than 20% of enquiries.

In addition to the differences highlighted with the level of annual premium returned,
variations were also noted in the ease of use of some of the sites, with
moneysupermarket performing well for ease of use and navigation in comparison to
its key competitors on several occasions:

    “The moneysupermarket.com and the confused.com were the quickest and easiest
                                sites to navigate.”
                                                                   26 February 2008


             “Moneysupermarket and Tesco were the easiest to navigate.”
                                                                   24 February 2008

Summary
In summary, moneysupermarket.com performed well, returning the lowest, or equal
lowest, annual premium in just over two-fifths of tests and was nearly twice as likely
to offer cheaper annual car insurance than other leading online comparison websites
in this exercise.

Furthermore, the site was perceived well in terms of navigation and comments from
those carrying out the enquiries would suggest that moneysupermarket is performing
well for ease of use in comparison to some of its competitors.

				
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