What Online Shoppers Want: More local

Published: August 20, 2007, iMedia Connection

Kelly Blue Book reports that consumers want more local information when they’re purchasing a car; here’s the data and how to apply it.

When consumers go online, they most likely are searching for information that appeals specifically to their lives. What’s the hottest new restaurant in my city? Is there bad traffic on my commute route home from work today? When is this concert coming to my town? What movies are playing at my theater? What is the 10-day forecast in my area? Even in the burgeoning age of social networking media and popular online dating sites, consumers are looking to connect with something (or someone) online that is meaningful and relevant in their lives, and most likely, in their local geographic area.

The same is true for online shoppers, and in particular, online vehicle shoppers. Research from a 2007 DoubleClick Performics Survey shows that more than half of in-market vehicle shoppers use the internet as a primary source for gathering information. According to J. D. Power and Associates, the number one site used by new-vehicle shoppers is Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com, with nearly half of all in-market new-vehicle shoppers visiting the site to conduct their research. Throughout all phases of the funnel, consumers looking to purchase a new vehicle rely on the web to deliver timely and relevant information that applies specifically to them. Third-party auto sites like Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com and Edmunds.com have been privy to this concept for a while; both require visitors to enter their zip codes, to provide the shopper with specific vehicle pricing information relevant to that particular area plus geo-targeted regional OEM and Tier II/III messaging.

But while websites have been targeting ads specific to consumers’ geographic locations for some time, and even delivering certain location-specific data and information, we still have a way to go in truly providing the total package of local content that consumers say they desire.

According to a recent study conducted by Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research in May 2007, when asked to rate their interest in having more local area information on kbb.com, shoppers responded favorably. With one being “not at all interested” and 10 being “extremely interested,” shoppers weighed in overall at 8.1, showing positive interest in added local content to the site. The study further showed that consumers are most interested in local information related to obtaining new-car pricing, real-time local dealer inventory and trade-in values. Other popular options included special local offers/incentives, consumer reviews of dealerships and dealer locators/maps. On the other hand, consumers indicated they are least interested in information related to dealer-sponsored events, finance/lease pre-approval and images of the facilities.

Consumers telling us what they want (and don’t want) in local content is the first major step toward meeting their shopping needs in their own areas. But how we integrate this new local content with Tier I, II and III messaging is proving to be the big challenge, not just for the publishers of the third-party sites, but also for the agencies creating the messaging and OEMs/Associations/Dealers who hire them. How do we coordinate this messaging in a way that facilitates our partners’ communication with the consumers while not overwhelming them and providing only the most relevant content? Thanks to testing and surveys, we can count on the consumer to tell us when we are on target and when we are not.

Kbb.com is launching a new effort at the beginning of 2008 to start tackling this industry-wide conundrum and to help better serve its more than 12 million unique monthly visitors. The site’s all-new Tier II strategy will locally connect consumers with their vehicle of choice by providing engaging local content to shoppers accompanied by targeted local messages from Dealer Associations and regional OEM messages. The challenge still exists for Tiers I, II and III to coordinate messaging in a way that accomplishes each group’s specific goals, and the third-party sites still have the challenge of integrating the content and messaging in a way that makes sense for everyone.

But at the end of the day, challenges aside, we all are working toward the same common goal: third-party sites want to provide the relevant information that consumers want and need to make an informed vehicle purchase decision, and Tiers I, II and III all ultimately desire to sell cars. We’ll continue to work hand-in-hand, and surely in time a strategic balance will be achieved.

Robin Cooper is VP of advertising and business development at Kelley Blue Book.

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/16296.asp

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