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Marketing managers are being advised that travel, special interest and finance web sites are often more effective for ‘upper-funnel’ brand marketing than placing advertising on most automotive shopping sites.

The findings come from J D Power’s first study into online marketing within the car sales industry, for which it surveyed 10,724 verified new-vehicle buyers with internet access.

Steve Witten, executive director of automotive research at J D Power, explained: "In terms of internet advertising, once consumers visit an automotive shopping site, they’ve already narrowed their vehicle consideration set, which means that online advertisers are missing an ideal branding opportunity.

"By focusing on new-vehicle buyer behavior on the internet before they begin actively shopping for their next new vehicle, automotive marketers can identify the web sites with the highest probability of reaching prospective buyers more effectively than ever before."

Given the affluence of new car buyers sites found to be of particular use for web marketers included financial sites such as Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money and travel sites such as Expedia.com or Travelocity.

"While new-vehicle buyers are a niche of only six per cent of adults in any one year, they are a highly desirable group of consumers for advertisers, and they behave very differently online than general internet audiences," said Mr Witten.

"By understanding where certain consumers spend their time online rather than relying solely on general Internet visitation numbers, marketers are able to reach key audiences."