Truth in Engineering"¦ and Marketing

The financial crash of 2008 hit few industries harder than automotive.  We saw timeless US automotive manufacturers file for bankruptcy while others experienced record sales declines.  Despite this, some brands, like Audi, were able to weather the storm better than others.  How?  In part, thanks to successful marketing.  I first started paying attention to the brand after seeing a creative, futuristic commercial about a year ago.  Beginning in a dimly lit hallway, the camera pans into the living room as features of the house gradually evolve from 1970′s furnishings to contemporary décor.  As the camera turns to look out the window to the driveway, a Mercedes-Benz flickers and is replaced by the redesigned 2009 Audi A4.  "Progress is", indeed, "beautiful."Â  Since then, I have felt overwhelmed by clever Audi advertising and surrounded by sleek new models.  Am I alone?

Apparently not.

Looking at Compete unique visitor data, we see overall site traffic to audiusa.com climbing steadily over the last year, passing traffic to the Mercedes-Benz site in consecutive months for the first time since we started measuring data in 2003.  While the last 18 months have been tough on the auto industry, Audi continues to gain interest by consumers.

Given what we see above, it looks like Audi next has its sights on passing BMW.  To dive deeper into Audi-BMW competition, we looked at the most common automotive sites visited by consumers immediately prior to visiting either of these manufacturer websites in December.

For bmwusa visitors, the top auto site visited before hitting bmwusa.com is bmw.com, which is the international portal.  This isn’t surprising because the top result for a search on "BMW" often returns a link to this portal, from which people click through to the US site.  Interestingly, though, the fifth most referring automotive site to bmwusa.com is audiusa.com.  This referral site is ahead of all other OEMs but Mercedes-Benz, showing that of visitors to BMW’s US site who previously viewed an auto manufacturer site, a significant portion visited Audi.

Next, looking at the same data for Audi’s US site, we see a nearly identical pattern.  After the international portal, the top automotive manufacturer site upstream for audiusa.com visitors is bmwusa.com.  These findings for both sites show the growing competition for interest between these brands.

In looking at commercials from 18 months ago and even last year’s Superbowl, Audi has been directly daring consumers to "break the cycle," fight convention, and help them usher in a new generation.  These data show that their hard work is beginning to pay off.  To keep up their momentum, Audi should investigate the overall internet patterns of shoppers who visited both of these sites in the same month to know where to target potential consumers.  They could also analyze site tool usage by these shoppers to move them further down the shopping funnel.  These, and other analyses, could turn shopper interest into sales and hit Audi’s competition where it hurts.