The big rig trucking industry isn't exactly noted for being on the cutting edge of new media, but International Truck & Engine Corp. is looking to change that.
With the introduction in April of a
custom truck configurator on the company's website, prospective customers are now able to choose from an array of options that the site then adds to an animated 9900 or LoneStar truck model, viewable in a 360-degree manner.
Literally hundreds of different designs are possible, says Chris Howard, manager of interactive marketing. "We thought the configurator would allow [customers] to do their truck to the fullest," he says, "including different cab configurations, color, and accessories."
More important, the configurator affords International the opportunity to learn a lot more about its customers. "We wanted a new way to get in touch with long-haul owner and operators," he says. "This is a market based around individuals who want to stand out, and offering them the opportunity of building a product online helps us capture leads."
Anyone visiting the site can play around with the configurator. However, once someone looks to either save their design or email it to friends or to the company itself, he's required to provide more in-depth information. "With this application we can find out whether they're truly in the market for a truck, if they will be within 90 days, if they're the decision maker at their company, and so on," Howard says.
The concept of big riggers sitting around a truck stop, tapping in their designs, and sitting back to await delivery isn't quite accurate, he cautions.
"To purchase the actual truck, they still need to go to their local dealership," he says. That's due in part to the fact that, even with nearly 50 different parts for both the 9900 and LoneStar, "We're still only touching the surface of what these guys want."
Instead, if an online query is determined to be a hot lead, the dealership nearest that lead is alerted to follow up. The dealer, armed with the prospect's information and with a general idea about his taste, can then encourage the prospect to come in for further recommendations.
The road ahead
International offers several other lines, Howard says, but "the 9900 and Lone Star are the truly customized lines, to the Nth degree." Still, the company is looking to expand its online presence even further.
"Although owners and operators are our main market," he says, "there are also small business owners whose primary business may not necessarily be trucking -- but they still have a need for a truck to deliver their end product."
To that end, International plans to add advisories on such topics as how businesses can keep their records up-to-date, how to manage their fleet of trucks, and how to maximize performance, as well as offering discounts at its nearly 1,000 dealerships in North America. In 2009, Howard says, International will also add an online community feature.
"We want to create a peer-to-peer dialog, and connect customers to other customers," he says. "Everything from getting construction companies to talk to others in the same field, to providing our customers with ideas on how to work their trucks during the winter months when business might be slow."
Currently the website gets about 250,000 unique visitors a month, and of that, about 15 percent ultimately connect with a dealership. "We are continuing to try and drive that number higher," Howard says.
It's a concerted effort, he says, "to make the experience
more exciting, evoke more emotions, and provide better