April 2, 2004, 12:00 AM

Better web sites steer Saab, Chrysler closer to customers

Chrysler is rebuilding Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler web sites to process and store customized data based on online shoppers’ preferences. Saab is using a new web-based tool to instantly verify consumers’ address information to create quicker and more productive ties between shoppers and dealers.

As the web entices more and more shoppers to research products before buying, its role as a useful tool for consumers is being taken for granted. But even with all that research activity, retailers still strive to improve the way they leverage the web for marketing purposes.

“By improving the consumers’ experience and better understanding their needs, we believe the conversion rate from online browsers to buyers will improve,” says Jeff Bell, vice president of interactive communications for Chrysler Group.

Working with web site developers Organic Inc., Chrysler is rebuilding its Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler web sites to process and store customized data based on the vehicle preferences individual shoppers have recorded online. So now when online visitors configure their dream cars while continuing to shop around, their information will be stored along with available dealer inventories in online folders - providing a service to consumers while also providing dealers with information they can use to better respond to individual shoppers’ interests. “We believe this will improve customers’ online experience, and we and our dealers will have an opportunity to know them better,” Bell says.

At Saab Cars U.S.A. Inc., a new web-based tool that instantly verifies personal address information that consumers enter online is forging quicker and more productive ties between shoppers and dealers, says Richard Amling, director of marketing analysis.

SaabUSA.com generates customer leads for dealers by letting online shoppers request a price quote or a test drive, then transferring the requests to a local dealer’s web site. But because some shoppers would enter inaccurate or fictitious personal information, Saab dealers have been hesitant to follow up on the leads, Amling says.

Saab used to have its call center agents each spend about two hours per day contacting shoppers who had registered online to verify their name and address. But with a new web-based data verification system it implemented last year from Melissa Data Corp., which checks consumer-entered data against a web-based database of postal addresses, SaabUSA.com now forwards accurate data to dealers within seconds instead of hours.

The new system has helped SaabUSA.com quadruple the number of customer leads it forwards every month to dealers, to more than 4,000 from 1,000. “This is still in the early stages, but it’s having a good impact on the number of purchases initiated online,” Amling says.

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