Yahoo! Tunes-Up Auto Area

Yahoo has tuned up its Autos area, giving consumers researching car-buying decisions the ability to browse by categories, to email and IM information to others and to access community information such as most popular cars in a category.

Automotive advertising is one of the hottest categories online, and even local auto dealers are now spending $2 on Internet advertising and Web sites for every $3 they spend on local TV advertising, according to a report by Borrell Associates. Large numbers of users turn to the Web to research car-buying decisions.

According to Hitwise, Yahoo Autos was the ninth-ranked U.S. automotive site by market share in September 2003. eBay Motors comes in first, is second, and rival ISP MSN’s Auto area is sixth. The Yahoo Autos redesign, a year in the making, may represent an attempt to gain a bigger piece of the rich online auto marketing pie.

By creating a more appealing and cleaner interface and allowing consumers to self-select down a variety of funnels, the new design makes it easier for advertisers to reach a targeted audience, according to Andrew Braccia, general manager Yahoo Autos.

“This helps them segment their audience,” Braccia said.

For example, consumers researching car-buying decisions now can browse by the lowest price, biggest engine or best gas mileage for a specific type of car, such as an SUV. Categories on the old Yahoo Autos were not this detailed, so marketers now have an opportunity to place more targeted ads, Braccia said.

One of the most immediately noticeable changes is that new car and used car buying options are displayed prominently side-by-side on the left-hand side of the homepage. Previously, used cars were buried lower on the page.

Before the redesign, Yahoo Autos pages featured only one ad. Now there is room for two on the page, one on the left as before and one on the top right-hand side above the fold.

Consumers can save the results of their research on Yahoo Autos. This includes classified ads for used cars, custom autos they may have built online, cars viewed and cars compared.

Users can also email or IM information and links to vehicles to trusted friends and loved ones, Braccia said. Another new feature is “Most Popular Cars,” which informs researchers of the most popular cars in the categories they are considering.

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