Newsbits


Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc.

Mercedes-Benz Launches New Interactive Retail Initiative

MONTVALE, N.J., Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc. (MBNA) today announced the first phase of a new interactive retail initiative that is designed to be the most comprehensive in the automotive industry.

The initiative currently consists of three key components: (1) an enhanced corporate brand Web site, www.MBUSA.com; (2) an all-new Mercedes-Benz Dealer Web Site Network; and (3) interactive kiosks for the showroom floor. All three are designed to form a seamless, convenient information flow to new and current customers. MBNA plans to add additional components throughout the year to further personalize and customize information for customers, while simplifying the retail process.

Mercedes-Benz Corporate Web Site

The Mercedes-Benz corporate Web site (www.MBUSA.com) was recently recognized as one of the top 10 automotive Web sites, as well as the most improved in the Web Site Survey 3, conducted by Automotive Marketing Consultants, Inc. (AMCI), a leading auto marketing, testing and research consulting firm. It was also voted Best Overall Creative Design at the @dTech Conference Awards in Chicago in June.

The site features extensive information on the entire Mercedes-Benz model line, including the sophisticated vehicle ``configurator,'' an interactive application that allows users to put together different color and option combinations on any Mercedes model. By the end of the year, 360-degree visuals will be incorporated into the configurator to enable users to view the vehicle they build at virtually any angle, inside and out. Information on the many leasing and financing options available through Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation can be obtained on the Web site along with accessories, personal items or gifts which can be purchased through MBNA's online boutique (currently being updated to showcase the soon-to-be released fall catalog).

Furthermore, a function called Dealer Locator allows users to find their closest dealer, and obtain turn-by-turn driving directions to the dealership. The Dealer Locator also opens the door to the second component of MBNA's overall interactive initiative, the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Web Site Network.

Mercedes-Benz Dealer Web Site Network

The all-new Mercedes-Benz Dealer Web Site Network offers individual, customizable Web sites to all authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers. Nearly all of MBNA's 320 authorized dealers now have Web sites which can either be accessed by using their own individual web addresses, or through direct links from the Dealer Locator at www.MBUSA.com.

The new dealer Web sites, within the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Website Network, are designed to complement the corporate site in appearance and function, and contain graphically-rich, customizable pages, and a searchable pre-owned vehicle database.

``The Dealer Web Site Network is a phenomenal success. Within five months, 99 percent of MBNA dealers have signed up and virtually all sites are now online,'' said Bill Hurley, manager of new media and relationship marketing for MBNA.

All participating Mercedes-Benz dealers offer access to their pre-owned inventory, which is automatically updated daily to dealer Web sites from the Mercedes-Benz pre-owned vehicle database. This enables customers to shop before they enter a dealership, offering timely and accurate information including the VIN, original standard equipment, optional and dealer-installed equipment, as well as mileage. In most cases, it also includes vehicle price. Photographs are added for a visual reference.

Once a user locates a vehicle that interests them, they can submit a request to the dealer for more information, ask for a test drive or make a sales appointment, all with the click of a mouse.

Each Web site has sections on dealership information and events, service, parts, pre-owned vehicles, and links to appropriate sections of the corporate site for additional information. Users can also communicate with their dealers by using these Web sites. Through a variety of e-mail forms, users can not only request information on a particular pre-owned vehicle, but also inquire about specific parts, as well as obtain information on scheduled maintenance and request a service appointment online. Dealers will also have the opportunity to enhance their sites even further, with other features which are being expanded and enhanced on an ongoing basis, such as showcasing selected accessory items for purchase inquiries.

Interactive Kiosk

The third component of the Mercedes-Benz interactive initiative is the interactive kiosk. The kiosk was awarded a Bronze Pencil at this year's One Show Interactive Awards, and was the only interactive kiosk to be honored. Consumers can access in-depth vehicle and company information through interactive kiosks that are located in approximately 100 dealerships in major U.S. markets. The kiosk allows the shopper to build their dream car, take a simulated test drive, complete with a selection of music and life-like sound effects, while supplying key information on safety, reliability, quality and performance -- all cornerstones of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Beyond the ``driving'' experience, the kiosk offers a variety of entertaining interactive games that challenge the customer's knowledge of automotive technology and the history of Mercedes-Benz. In addition, shoppers can use the kiosk to explore leasing and financing features.

The kiosks will be linked to the corporate and dealer Web sites in the near future when MBNA launches NetStar, a new Dealer Communications System with a tightly integrated manufacturer-dealer Intranet.

``We have launched an initiative that links the customer, dealer and manufacturer to an extent that has never been done before within the automotive industry. We are in the process of creating an online community at Mercedes-Benz which sets a new standard in building and enhancing relationships with our current customers -- and all potential new ones,'' said Hurley.

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