"75%-80% of our sales come from conquest market share in the USA," says Audi of America's Online Marketing Manager Jim Taubitz.
"A lot of consumers have a high-level overview of the company; but, they certainly haven't owned an Audi vehicle before." Luckily, through Audi's consistent brand advertising, almost a million Americans and Canadians a month visited the site to learn more.
However, most were very much idle-interest window shoppers seeking general education. They weren't on an active decision-making path the way better-known US automotive site visitors typically were.
When your visitors are much higher up on the sales funnel, how can your site convince them to move into active shopping mode?
The past Audi of America sites weren't bad. They were, in fact, gorgeous (link to sample screenshot below). Visitors could find plenty of factual text info about the car, glossy photos, clean navigation, all the basic offers (design a car, find a dealer, etc.) and even a little Flash for entertainment value.
Which, of course, made things harder on the redesign team. The site had no obvious mistakes to clean up. How could they turn a darn good branding site into a lead generation machine?CAMPAIGN
First the team researched the demographic. The visitors most likely to convert into leads and ultimately purchasers were high-end, very Internet savvy (had been surfing online for years), and had a way above average broadband penetration rate (75% or higher depending on region).
Other luxury car competitors had already pioneered adding loads of rich media to their sites, with some success. So Audi's redesign team decided this might be the path to take.
However the team didn't go Flash-happy. Instead, they followed five best practices (most of which have been suggested by Macromedia for years to a sometimes oblivious Web design community).
Best Practice #1. No Flash intro
According to a MarketingSherpa consumer survey in 2003, 80% of consumers dislike Flash intros. (Yes, even with a "skip intro" button.) We strongly suspect that data hasn't changed much since then. Consumers going to commercial Web sites seeking product information are expecting they'll be in control of the situation and be able to find the info they desire in a few seconds, without waiting for load times or commercials.
So, although the site's new home page did have Flash, there was plenty of other useful static content (both text and graphical) on the page to view during load-time and even as Flash played.
"Don't put roadblocks in front of the content people want," says Taubitz. "Having to click a 'skip' button, that's a negative user experience."
Best Practice #2. No too-long Flash
All Flash segments were kept short, the longest was about 90 seconds. The team didn't make a formal rule about this, "nothing says it has to be less than two minutes." However, they felt every second of Flash has to pay for itself in terms of true value to the visitor. And, there aren't many commercial messages most consumers are deeply interested in seeing for more than a minute or two (except perhaps from entertainment properties).
Best Practice #3. No you're trapped in Flash and can't interact
"We're not using it as a sit back and watch period," explains Taubitz. "We try to integrate more experience into the Flash area. You can pull out fields and forms and get data back."
So, visitors were trained from the start that visiting Audi wasn't necessarily a passive experience. You were encouraged continually to engage with the site beyond "push button to see rich media".
Best Practice #4. No way to get lost in Flash
"You can pop open quick quote and dealer locator applications, and it displays in Flash on top of the Flash [you're watching], so you're not losing yourself in page architecture," explains Taubitz. In the end each product page by itself became a sort of microsite you could accomplish all the tasks you wanted without leaving that one page.
Plus, every page featured the standard Audi template of right hand vertical navigation, with Flash content displaying to the left.
However, the team didn't rely on the standard navigation to drive clicks and interaction. If someone is busy watching and interacting with your Flash, you need to put navigation even closer at hand. Therefore, the team added navigation on horizontal bars above and below the Flash box.
Much of this duplicated the standard navigation at the immediate right. "It never hurts to provide multiple ways to get someplace, as long as it is clear to the user that the links are essentially equivalent navigation."
Best Practice #5. No post-Flash dead ends
"No dead-end marketing!" Taubitz describes his new mantra. "After someone has gone through an event or process, what do we want them to do next? Someone has gone through the site, gone through the What's New Flash, what do you want them to do next? We'll ask, 'Now that you've seen this, why don't you take a look at features and specs? Why don't you contact a dealer?"
Bonus Best Practice: Respond in a Flash
Even with all the exciting rich media in the world, Taubitz knew Internet-savvy consumers are highly cynical about their chances of having a quick and useful reply from filling out an online form.
The true wow factor of the site wouldn't ever be the Flash and interactive devices. The only way to get a "wow" was to have dealers personally contact newly generated leads within minutes (not hours or days) of a form fill. And no, Taubitz does not think any sort of automated "thank you" email counts as a personal response.
"Studies show the closing rate for OEMs that respond to leads within one half hour to one hour is significantly higher. That's why we are sticklers about dealer response time."
"I think the wow factor is not coming back to [new leads] with a quick automatic email saying 'Thank you, your information has been submitted,'" says Taubitz. "The wow factor is did they respond to you personally and how quickly did they respond to you?" We get a lot of interest, but these leads have a very short shelf life." How does Audi corral its dealers into what, from our experience, is very undealer-like behavior? Taubitz couldn't reveal specific tactics, but he did give us the name of the tech company they use to close the lad tracking loop (see link below).
The percent of site visitors who turned fill out forms to become leads rose by 325% after the site relaunch last fall. The percent change in sales associated with site leads rose by 225%.
Why the difference? Every time you conduct a marketing campaign that vastly increases lead volume, you'll see a decline in quality. Audi definitely has bragging rights, the decline was so low.
In the past, 35% of visitors went to new model info pages in the site -- a critical step toward becoming a lead. Now nearly 50% of site visitors make it to a new model info page.
Site visit length has increased by a mere 10% -- which is interesting given that the media on the site has to some extent changed from heavily text to more Flash. It seems Audi surfers were already going to give the site a certain amount of time almost no matter what happened there, and it was up to the site design to make the most of that time.
The standard right-hand vertical navigation is still the favorite for most visitors, garnering 71% of clicks. However, this still means the extra duplicate navigation is working hard, gaining 29% of site clicks, some of which the site might have lost altogether otherwise.Useful links related to this article
Creative samples - Audi before & after screenshots: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/audi/study.html
Past MarketingSherpa Publisher Blog: Uproar over Anti-Flash Intro Survey Results http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2529
Enlighten - the Web design firm Audi of America relied on for their redesign project: http://www.enlighten.com
Urban Science -- the technology Audi of America uses internally to track leads from sites and get dealer feedback: http://www.urbanscience.com/
Audi of America: http://www.audiusa.com