Note to Auto Marketers: Aim Higher in the Funnel

Auto-focused properties like Edmunds.com, KellyBlueBook.com and AutoBytel.com tend to be the first sites earmarked in automakers’ Web budgets. But they may not be the smartest use of those ad dollars.

Marketing information provider J.D. Power and Associates recently shared data on the online surfing habits of new car buyers, offering a detailed peek into where in-market consumers go online before they visit those sites. It may be the first such look at the Internet use patterns of these consumers.

The company’s 2006 Online Media Study presents findings from a survey of 10,724 new vehicle buyers, conducted late last year. It asked respondents not only what sites they visited, but how engaged they were those sites.

Some of the findings are no-brainers, such as the affinity large pick-up buyers’ have for NASCAR.com and home improvement Web sites. Others are a little less intuitive, for instance, female buyers of mini-vans and large SUV’s like gaming sites. And sports car buyers frequent travel-related sites.

Other findings include recent owners of midsize pick-up trucks tend to visit sports-related Web sites, and luxury buyers gravitate heavily to the iTunes music store.

More general findings include new car buyers visit special interest, travel and financial sites four to six times more often than general Web users. Included in these groups are sites including WebMD, Expedia, Travelocity, Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money.

J.D. Power uses general Web use data from Compete Inc. to compare its own survey findings with general Internet usage.

“When people go to automotive sites, they’ve already narrowed their shopping lists,” said Steve Witten, executive director of automotive research at J.D. Power. “It’s highly unlikely you’re going to get a shot at those people, one because the inventory’s already been bought by the brand for that page, and two, the mindset is, don’t bother me, I’m trying to do a configuration for my new Dodge Caliber.”

J.D. Power makes customized reports available to its online media buyer clients. A sister study polls car buyers on their use of print media.

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