Study: Automotive I-Marketing Efforts Stuck in Neutral

Although many automotive industry players are running Internet marketing campaigns meant to bring car buyers to their Web sites, approximately 48 percent of online users remain less than satisfied with the information supplied by such campaigns, according to a study released Tuesday by e-business consulting firm Accenture.

However, the study also found that one-fifth of consumers reported being very satisfied with automaker Web sites.

According to the study, auto manufacturers have veered off course with their e-commerce efforts because most consumers do not view the Internet as a viable purchasing channel for such big-ticket items. Instead, Accenture said, 56 percent of the consumers surveyed wanted to use the Web as research tool before deciding on a car purchase.

“No one can accuse the auto industry of sitting on its hands during the dot-com craze, but the return on investment has not been what they expected,” said Accenture partner John Cunningham. “But what matters now is that automakers redirect their investments from unpromising to rewarding applications and rebuild strong brands.”

The consulting firm’s study was based on its survey of more than 1,000 North American consumers who have recently visited automotive Web sites.

Keep It Simple

Accenture said it is imperative for industry leaders to revamp their approach to reaching consumers via the Internet. Most importantly, the firm said online consumers prefer simple Web sites, often spurning interactive bells and whistles for quick and reliable access to information.

Almost two-thirds of the e-shoppers surveyed said they look for product updates online, while only 13 percent want service reminders and 9 percent want sites to offer location mapping.

Rather than investing time and capital into developing online transactioncapabilities and making representatives available to answer consumer queriesonline, auto makers should focus on cultivating their core business, saidAccenture.

“Automakers need to build informative, easy-to-use sites and forego costlyinvestments in one-click auto shopping,” said Cunningham. “Their sites don’thave to offer every visual effect that technology makes possible.”

Building Brand

Accenture also said automakers should integrate their online and offline marketing channels. For instance, the firm recommended that automakers post local dealer data on their Web sites, where consumers form their mostimportant brand impressions and make purchase decisions.

Among its other Internet marketing suggestions, Accenture said it isessential for automakers to reassess their online efforts with an eye onthe bottom line, making investments in initiatives that are most likely topay off and customizing marketing messages at the segment level.

In order to bolster their marketing muscle, the study advised automakers to collect information from customers who visit their Web sites and use it toform a thorough understanding of the market.

Meeting Consumer Need

Another key component of car manufacturers’ e-marketing plans is to identify the online market segments they want to serve andfocus on those most likely to repay the investment necessary to addresstheir needs.

For instance, the report said companies in the sector should not exclusively target younger consumers who fall into the 18 to 34-year-old demographic, because they do not represent the biggest spending segment on the Internet. Rather, thatdistinction belongs to consumers over 35 years of age.

“When it comes to online marketing initiatives, officers of efficiency management need to shift their focus to what consumers really want — and away from what the industry thinks they want,” said Cunningham.

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