Configurators -- features of automakers' Web sites that allow consumers to build their own vehicles -- are becoming vital marketing tools.
Early configurators allowed Web users merely to look at vehicle colors and wheel styles. But the latest technology permits configurators to provide user interactivity, animated images and information about options and financing. It also allows searches of dealer inventory.
Someone who configures a vehicle online is nearly four times as likely as the typical consumer to ask a dealership for a price quote, JupiterResearch reported last month.
"Many companies still view the configurator as a technical tool divorced from the brand and sales process," says Steve Glauberman, CEO of Enlighten, the interactive advertising agency for Audi of America Inc. "But a good configurator experience is a significant source of qualified leads."
Configurators that focus on pricing miss an opportunity to support a brand message, Glauberman told Automotive News.
The best tools, he says, "create a dialogue and help consumers make purchasing decisions."
Enlighten redesigned Audi's Web site in 2004 to improve the configurator. Since then, Glauberman says, sales leads from the Web site have quadrupled. And 80 percent of Audi's site leads come from its configurator, he adds.