Mercedes-Benz lets web visitors drive site changes

Monday, April 04, 2011  

A voice of customer tool shows how web content alters consumers’ brand perceptions.

After Mercedes-Benz USA launched a redesigned web site last year full of interactive, rich media, it didn’t take long for it to identify and fix glitches to ensure a positive shopping experience for its customers, the company says.

"We had just relaunched our web site last July, and we felt it was critical that we got it right,” says Eric Jillard, manager of the digital marketing and customer relationship management department at Mercedes-Benz.

The car maker noticed soon after the relaunch, for example, that its build-your-own vehicle configurator was not as easy to use as site designers had expected. But before it directed its web developers to rebuild the build-your-own tool, it used iPerceptions Inc.’s webValidator Continuous Listening application to determine exactly how site visitors were using the tool and what they thought of it.

Focus groups are one way to gather that kind of information, but Mercedes figured that approach would take too long, Jillard says. Instead, the webValidator application enabled Mercedes to get the confirmation it needed and begin developing a fix the same day.

"Within hours of having a hypothesis about a problem, we’re able to identify the issue quickly and get the information into the right hands to fix the problem—instead of taking much longer to form a focus group,” says Craig Chaplick, supervisor of digital marketing and customer relationship management at Mercedes-Benz.

Mindy Hatton, a digital marketing and data analyst for, was able to quickly run a report on the voice-of-customer data to show specific comments visitors had made about using the build-your-own tool, she says. She then passed that on to the web development team to update the tool’s functionality.

Once developers addressed the problems with the configurator tool, Mercedes-Benz then was able to see through ongoing customer feedback that visitors were reporting an improved site experience.

The webValidator tool presents a pop-up window to randomly selected site visitors asking them to take a site usability survey; visitors who agree \ are presented with a survey window as they click to leave the site. Survey results, including ratings as well as comments by participating site visitors, are instantly available for review on a webValidator dashboard accessed through desktop computers.

Mercedes has used the voice-of-customer tool in other ways as well. When Toyota Motor Co. suffered a rash of negative publicity last year over news about drivers who experienced problems with car accelerators, Mercedes-Benz built on its own reputation for safety with a video series that highlighted the positive reports it had received from customers about their personal experiences with Mercdes-Benz vehicles.

The car maker then posted those videos to its web site, and ran a TV ad that directed viewers to its site to view the videos. Mercedes then used the webValidator tool to survey customer response to the videos. The car maker learned that the TV ad was an effective means of driving repeat visitors to, and that those who viewed the videos on thought better of the car maker’s brand compared to site visitors who did not watch the videos.

"We saw that the videos had a positive impact on brand perception,” Hatton says.

Mercedes also uses Webmetrics Inc.’s analytics technology to determine how these visitors clicked through the site before and after seeing the videos. But the analytics alone wouldn’t provide as comprehensive an understanding of what visitors think of the Mercedes-Benz brand, Hatton says. "We can’t get into their heads with just web analytics,” she says.