Carmakers aren't taking full advantage of traditional media to push their Web sites, according to a survey by NetSmart America.com, a consulting firm in New York.
NetSmart recently completed a phone survey of 1,000 Internet users in the United States between the ages of 21 and 65.
More than half of those surveyed, or 530 people, said they went to automotive Web sites to do research before deciding which vehicle to buy, said Bernadette Tracy, president of NetSmart. The auto sites include those of manufacturers and online car services.
She suggested that automakers have the narrator of a TV commercial tell consumers the automaker's Web site address. Too often, the addresses - which typically appear in small print at the end of a spot, are not prominent enough, she said.
Magazine ads also should give the Web addresses a bigger plug than the usual small-print mention. Magazine ads generated the most visits to auto Web sites, with TV commercials relatively close behind, the survey found.
'Traditional advertising like TV commercials and magazines create awareness and interest, but the Web site can virtually close the sale,' Tracy said.
The survey found that 93 percent of the shoppers on auto Web sites said the information they found online played a key role in their purchase decision.
Thirty-five percent of the car shoppers said they didn't have a specific make or model in mind when they started their online research. Sixty-four percent who do start with a specific vehicle in mind visit competitive auto sites to reinforce their decisions.
Auto sites should avoid a common pitfall of bragging, she cautioned. Sixty-one percent of the auto-site visitors said they left an auto site because the content was self-serving or boring.
Eighty-eight percent of the car-site visitors reported that navigating sites is a major frustration. Seventy percent said it took too many clicks to get to the information they wanted.
Tracy suggested carmakers and third-party auto sites add a pop-up screen with help after a visitor makes four computer mouse clicks on their sites. She said most Web visitors give up after five clicks.