VOLVO FINE TUNES ITS SITE TO FIT AUDIENCE

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The few, the brave, the Web pioneers. Starting on this page we profile some of the marketers that paved the way.

When Volvo Cars of North America first put up a home page on the World Wide Web (http://www.volvocars.com), it offered visitors a chance to comment on the site.

Not any more. After a few users left complaints about their vehicles, Volvo determined that the notes could constitute a formal complaint filing under certain states' lemon laws, and the Swedish car marketer wasn't prepared to respond to cyber-grievances in a timely manner.

Now, visitors can only leave a name and address requesting more information, one of the adjustments Volvo has had to make since leading the auto industry onto the Web.

On the other side, one of the most pleasant surprises for Volvo executives is that about 50 dealers have decided to tie in with their own Web pages linked to the corporate site.

While the site's dealer locator lists all 385 Volvo dealers, those with their own home page are highlighted so a visitor can click onto their sites and get information about inventory, prices and service.

"Consumers tell us the dealer locator is the most valuable part of the site," said Bob Austin, director-marketing communications.

Volvo's site, designed by Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, opened in October 1994. The Swedish car importer figured a Web site would be a good fit for its affluent, highly educated target audience.

"It's not going to replace traditional media any time in the near future. But it has opened up an interesting new way to deliver a ton of information, something that would be cost-prohibitive to do using traditional media," Mr. Austin said.

-Raymond Serafin

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