July 15, 2010, 2:47 PM

Customer feedback helps steer site design at Mercedes-Benz USA

Voice-of-customer tool helps steer Mercedes-Benz USA’s web design in the right direction.

Lead Photo

Eric Jillard, department manager, Mercedes-Benz USA

Before rolling out a new web site design, Mercedes-Benz USA wanted to ensure that it was on the right track. A new voice-of-customer application did the job and led to new and better ways to let online visitors experience the carmaker’s AMG high-performance brand, says Eric Jillard, department manager, digital marketing & CRM, Mercedes-Benz USA.

“At Mercedes-Benz, we’re committed to responding to our customers faster and more effectively,” Jillard says. “By teaming with iPerceptions, we can now combine detailed, actionable insights gained through their voice-of-customer solution with industry-specific intelligence provided by their Automotive Program to create a better online experience for our customers.”

Mercedes-Benz deployed iPerceptions Inc.’s webValidator Continuous Listening application several weeks ago to get direct before-and-after input from visitors to MBUSA.com about web site design features, including better ways to navigate among its vehicle models and build customized configurations. The application is hosted by Montreal-based iPerceptions in a software-as-service environment.

The webValidator tool is designed to appear randomly as visitors arrive at a site’s home page or other landing page. Those selected are greeted with a second window that asks if they’d be willing to take a brief survey at the end of their visit. Visitors click yes or no to proceed to the landing page. If they click yes, a survey window automatically appears when they click to leave the site. The application appears at random so as not to be biased toward visitors who typically arrive by keying in a home page URL or via a particular search engine, says Dany Di Tullio, voice-of-customer analyst and automotive program specialist for iPerceptions.

In MBUSA.com’s case, visitor responses to the surveys confirmed that visitors felt they would benefit from the planned site re-design for improving usability, covering such areas as page layout and site navigation. “We wanted to be sure that we were on target with the usability enhancements that we were implementing, and the webValidator tool did demonstrate that visitor satisfaction and goal completion were enhanced by our changes,” Jillard says.

Prior to using webValidator, Mercedes-Benz USA wasn’t systematically gathering visitor insights about its branded web site, he adds. “We were making decisions and executing changes to the site based entirely on design-phase research, and validating success only with anecdotal feedback and often inconclusive behavioral analytics.”

The webValidator tool provides an analytical dashboard that lets retailers view on a single screen several data charts, such as the demographics of customers visiting a site, why they are visiting, whether they accomplished what they came to a site to do, and the rate at which they are completing tasks expected by a retailer, such as clicking to view particular products, using a product configurator or making a purchase.

Among the most valuable information gathered with webValidator, Jillard says, was an increasing interest among visitors in the carmaker’s luxury high-performance brand, AMG, which led Mercedes-Benz to implement additional design tools to make it easier for visitors to navigate among AMG models and build custom versions according to their preferred colors and options.

And more design changes are in the works. “We have a host of enhancements that have yet to launch, many of which are attributable to the clear feedback we are receiving through the webValidator tool,” Jillard says.

Mercedes-Benz USA is working on web site designs with digital design and marketing agency Razorfish along with its own I.T. team.

Claude Guay, CEO of iPerceptions, notes that about 2% to 6% of web site visitors usually respond to webValidator’s invitation to take a survey, though the rate is often higher for luxury brands. Jillard adds: “The rate of customer response is actually fairly high in our industry. We find that our audience is very passionate about our brand and our products, and they are eager to help us improve the content, tools, and experience that we offer online.”

Subsequent studies by iPerceptions, Guay says, have also found that most visitors who don’t take the surveys appreciate that they’re available because they indicate the retailer cares about their opinions.

Other clients of the iPerceptions Automotive Program include the online operations of car brands BMW, Mini, Mazda, Hyundai, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.

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