Study: Automakers Should Rethink Web Marketing

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Automobile manufacturers should give serious consideration to retooling their Web sites to provide more information and make that information easier to access, rather than providing an interactive car buying experience, according to a recent survey by management and technology consulting firm Accenture.


The online car buying experience is largely unsatisfying, the consulting firm said, and automakers should concentrate on giving consumers what they want, and not what the industry thinks consumers want.


"[Automakers] need to build informative, easy-to-use sites and forgo costly investments in one-click shopping," said John Cunningham, a partner in Accenture's automotive industry group and an author of the study.


The study, conducted in conjunction with Online Insight, Atlanta, a marketing software developer, found that only 20 percent of consumers were very satisfied with their online automotive shopping experiences, and nearly half, 48 percent, said they were neutral or dissatisfied.


Cunningham pointed out that the study, which surveyed 1,000 North American consumers last fall, showed that people do not want to purchase cars online. More than half of those surveyed, 56 percent, said they use automakers' Web sites to research their purchases, which they then make at a dealership.


"It's clear that based on these findings, [automakers] should reconsider their approach to reaching consumers via the Web," he said. "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."


Cunningham suggested that automakers integrate their online and offline marketing. They should use online technology as a tool to make it easier for consumers to find local dealers, rather than use their online presence for e-commerce. He also suggested they collect data from customers visiting their Web sites and use it to better understand the market and find out what consumers want.


Personalized Web sites do not enhance the car buying experience, Cunningham said. In fact, he noted that consumers ranked personalization last compared to other online features.


"Their sites don't have to offer every visual effect that technology makes possible," he said.


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