August 11, 2006, 12:00 AM

Car sellers need to diversify their online ad spending, study says

To do a better job of tracking purchasing intentions and buyer behavior, car manufacturers and dealers need to advertise on different web sites that attract upper-income new car buyers, says a new study from market researchers J.D. Power and Associates.

To be truly effective with their online advertising programs, vehicle manufacturers and dealers need to spread the wealth and advertise on different web sites that attract upper-income new car buyers, says a new study from J.D. Power and Associates.

Targeting new vehicle buyers at travel, special interest and finance web sites is considerably more effective for upper-end brand marketing than placing advertising on most automotive shopping sites, according to the study, which included a survey of 10,724 verified new-vehicle buyers with Internet access who purchased a vehicle in September or October 2005. “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,” says Steve Witten, executive director of automotive research at J.D. Power. “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.”

While most Internet users are reached by the most popular sites such as Google and Yahoo, the study finds new vehicle buyers can be found following their interests and lifestyles at sites such as WebMD and Home Depot five times more often than general Internet users. Given their affluence, these buyers use financial sites such as Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money six times more often than general Internet users. They are also four to five times more likely to use travel sites such as Expedia.com or Travelocity than general Internet users.

“While new-vehicle buyers are a niche of only 6% 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,” says Witten. “This is a significant opportunity for marketers, especially when they can analyze down to the vehicle segments from which these buyers cross-shop. Marketing is often the most inefficient part of any business in terms of spending. 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, often at fees that provide more bang for the buck.”

The study finds that visitation to particular web sites can vary greatly by the type of vehicle consumers are likely to purchase. For example:
• Large pickup buyers have above-average visitation rates to NASCAR.com and many home improvement sites;
• Mid-size pickup buyers are much more likely than others to visit sports-related sites
• Female prospects for mini vans and large SUVs frequent Disney Online and game sites;
• Those interested in sports cars not only visit auto enthusiast sites, but also are frequent visitors to several travel-related Web sites;
• Luxury buyers are more than twice as likely as non-luxury buyers to visit Apple’s iTunes music store, due in part to high ownership levels of MP3 players in this segment.

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