Auto Maker's Web Strategy Sparks More Action

The Chrysler Group quietly has put together a powerful Web-based marketing strategy building key partnerships with online third-party sites and user-friendly websites and products to directly create sales. Two years into the program, the results are impressive. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brand websites had more than 4.9 million visitors in September a 77% increase over year-ago. Dodge.com led the way

The Chrysler Group quietly has put together a powerful Web-based marketing strategy building key partnerships with online third-party sites and user-friendly websites and products to directly create sales.

Two years into the program, the results are impressive. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brand websites had more than 4.9 million visitors in September — a 77% increase over year-ago.

Dodge.com led the way with a 135% increase in the number of visitors. “We changed the name of the site from ForADodge.com to Dodge.com and saw a big increase in traffic,” notes Jeff Bell, vice president-Jeep marketing and customer relationship management.

“Of course, we had to go Soprano-like to get the Dodge.com name,” he jokes, referring to the struggle of securing the rights from an Internet squatter who had purchased the domain name several years ago in hopes of a payout from the auto maker.

About 90% of the traffic to the brand websites is self-directed, while the other 10% come from third-party sites. The Chrysler Group has formed online partnerships with what Bell calls the “big three” and the “little three” third-party sites.

The “big three” includes AOL, Yahoo and MSN. Approximately 85% of all Internet traffic is on these portals, Bell says. “Our strategy is to be where the customer is.”

In 2002, the three portals have driven more than 2.5 million visitors to the Chrysler brand sites.

Kelly Blue Book (KBB.com), Edmunds.com and AutoTrader.com are the “little three.” They produce 250,000 visitors for the brand sites, but, says Bell, “these visitors are of a higher quality. Our data shows the inventory searches are two to three times the level of other visitors.”

Visits to the three brand sites are translating into sales. Combined, the three sites received 216,000 quote requests during the year's first nine months, leading to 43,100 sales — a 20% closing ratio. From March to September, the closing ratio was 24.7%.

This year, the auto maker added powerful e-tools to all three sites in order to funnel visitors to dealers. The tools car shoppers use the most include the vehicle configurator, dealer locator, inventory search and “Get-a-Quote,” a tool shoppers can use to request information and pricing on specific vehicles.

Visitors, however, are not sent to the dealership's own website, says Christine MacKenzie, DaimlerChrysler vice president-dealer operations. Instead, each Five-Star dealer has its own Chrysler brand-specific Web page where leads are sent.

“Most of our dealers have other franchises and we don't want to lose that lead to another company,” she explains. Also, keeping the lead within the auto maker's own website means each lead can be tracked to the point of sale.

In the next few months, all three brands will launch new websites that will integrate the catalog and brochure look. New tools also are being added to the sites. A Dodge towing guide already is on Dodge.com.

In January, a heavy-duty Ram truck accessorizer will be added. A Jeep interactive 4-wheel-driving guide will be on Jeep.com in early spring 2003.

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