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November 2000: VW Creates Online Buzz, Generates Sales for New Beetle

Volkswagen of America ( had a novel idea. Introduce two new cool colors for its popular New Beetle - Reflex Yellow and Vapor Blue. The catch, however, is that only 2,000 New Beetles were available and the only way to get them was online.

The company initially advertised the promotion with a multimillion-dollar television and print ad campaign that quipped, "Only 2,000 available. Only online."

"VW has a lot of Web savvy customers and we launched this campaign to not only promote the new colors, but to support the online buying process," said Tesa Aragones, VW of America's e-business manager. "We wanted to make this a unique branded experience. About 60 percent of our customers currently use the Internet to purchase products and services."

The online campaign, the first time VW of America has sold cars on its Web site, kicked off on May 4 and concluded June 30. According to Aragones, flash technology was used to create virtual test-drives for each color.

"Using flash allowed us to incorporate motion and sound and gave the impression that you were actually a part of the commercial," Aragones said. "Viewers could click on different frames of the test drives in urban settings, on the highway, out in the country, and more."

The virtual test-drives dramatically increased site traffic. Aragones said VW of America averages about one million visits each month. On the first day of the promotion, more than 80,000 visits were logged. Over the course of the promotion, unique users averaged 47,000 per day and minutes per visit doubled to about 19 minutes, averaging about 1:15 minutes per page.

The test-drives also accomplished a key objective - get more people to register online. Visitors had the option to create their own personalized Web page called "My VW." Aragones said more than 9,500 people established Web pages during the promotion. They could learn about their desired car, check its availability within VW's distribution system, choose a dealer, work out financing and purchasing terms and arrange a delivery date.

"They're able to open a dialog with a dealer to discuss their requirements via the Internet, an electronic message board or on the telephone," she said. "Once they agree on the final terms, customers directly coordinate the delivery of the New Beetle with the dealer."

Aragones said the promotion resulted in more than 2,500 orders online, and of these, about 60 percent were for the Vapor Blue model.

"The Vapor Blue was slightly more popular because it had different price points -the Reflex Yellow was only available with the 150-hp engine and is more expensive," she said.

Aragones added that another popular aspect of the campaign was a sealed packet of 10 trading cards that featured photography of the two models along with interesting New Beetle facts and figures on the backside.

The campaign was also a big hit with VW of America's nationwide dealer network. More than 90 percent of VW's 540 dealers around the country participated. Although Aragones declined to provide dealer-closing rates, she indicated they were "very high."

"The pilot program achieved our objectives, she said. "We were able to demonstrate to consumers that the buying process online provides them with greater control and more flexibility. The program also demonstrated to our dealers just how powerful e-commerce is and gets them ready for the expected increase in online shopping in the automotive industry."

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