Avis.com adds virtual car tours, but keeping up with competition isn`t easy

AvisRent A Car is attempting to make it easier for customers to select a rental vehicle by allowing users of its Web site to take virtual tours of its vehicles.
Avis customers can now preview the look and feel of a vehicle before they rent with iPIX`s 360 degree images letting drivers see the inside of a vehicle as if they were looking through a door or sitting behind the wheel. The images are meant to help the customer get a better idea of the look and feel of the car, including legroom, seats and the entire dashboard.
“By adding 360 degree iPIX images to our site, Avis is offering consumers the ability to truly immerse themselves in their rental cars of choice without leaving the comfort of their own homes,” said Stanley J. Schwarz, Avis` vice president for revenue management. “We believe the iPIX images will give currentand potential customers a more dynamic online experience.”
Users may access the virtual tours through the site`s fleet information section. Avis is currently offering the virtual tours for the Cadillac Sedan DeVille, Pontiac Grand Am, Buick Le Sabre and Chevy Impala.
Schwarz said this is just one step the Garden City, NY -based company has taken as a “technology leader” in the car rental business. Last year, the company introduced Avis InterActive, a Web-based rental fleet management system for its corporate customers. Last month it launched a new Web site specifically designed for meeting planners and attendees.
Avis’ new meeting Web site www.avis.com/meetings/ is the latest feature of the Avis Meeting & Group Sales, which offers services to meeting planners. The new site lets meeting planners set up customized Web pages for posting individualized meeting information and facilitating online reservations by attendees. The site also allows meeting planners to request a proposal, make a car rental reservation for site inspections, download the Avis logo and order free customized support materials.
In June, Avis established Avis InterActive, an Internet based information system designed to provide its corporate customers with information on their car rental usage and expenses based upon Avis` existing rental car database. Avis InterActive gives corporate customers access to aggregated information on car rental expenses and utilization as well as specific renter preferences in a format designed to for easy analysis by travel managers and accountants.
Despite, its attempts to offer a comprehensive online experience, Avis still will have to keep up the hard work to keep up with its competitors.
In fact Avis.com
only placed fifth on Gomez Winter 2000 Car Rental Scorecard following Budget, National, Dollar and Alamo, and slipping from the fourth ranking position in the previous ranking. While Gomez acknowledged that Avis.com provides key benefits like detailed information for each rental location within the reservation process and a feature that allows customers to add a coupon number to an existing reservation, it said poor navigation continues to be a problem for the site.
Gomez rated Budget the number car rental one site in part becasue of an extensive resdesign of its site. Budget simplified its online booking system, placing an express booking feature on the home page where users can enter pick up location and time. It also made it easier to price selections by posting applicable rates for all available car classes on a single page.
“The redesign succeeds in bringing a host of tools to the homepage, much like customers find on the airlines and Internet travel agent sites today,” Gomez said in its rating.
Last month Alamo Rent A Car, introduced QuickRent, the first service in the car rental industry that lets customers actually rent a car online. QuickRent customers are able to bypass the counter by choosing all their options online, electronically signing the rental agreement, and using an ATM-style kiosk at the Alamo rental location. QuickRent debuted last month in 36 U.S. cities, including: Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and San Diego.
Thrifty Car Rental has unplugged its reservation system by allowing its customers to make bookings therough wireless devices like the Palm VII, Handspring, Sony CLEI and other similar portable devices. Using a program that can be downloaded for free from Thrifty’s Web site, consumers can book a car rental reservation, and review or cancel their Thrifty Car Rental reservation. Customers can shop rates for all car types, and also have the option of entering a corporate account code, Blue Chip Express Rental account number or special promotional codes.
Hertz also its offering its customers a mobile application. Visitors to its Web site can download to their hand-held computers a multi-purpose city guide from Portable Internet. The Hertz version of the [email protected] Guide, a mobile application from Portable Internet, includes Hertz proprietary information such as a Hertz location finder, telephone number and operating hours for each branch and a vehicle guide.