Dealerships Missing Out on Mobile and the Modern Car-Buying Experience

Let’s think for a moment about the deep connection we feel to our smartphones. We store family photos on them. We go to sleep next to them. We pretty much feel like we’re missing a limb if we leave the house without these devices close to our bodies. With that said, it’s really surprising that car dealerships are missing the boat when it comes to addressing the fact that more people than ever are relying on their mobile phones for just about everything: including researching and contacting dealerships!

We recently completed and published a study examining how dealerships across the U.S. fare when it comes to dealing with the mobile masses. Based on tracking and analyzing 1,000 randomly selected mobile calls from consumers to auto dealers across the US, there are some pretty telling findings:

  • 16% of calls from consumers to dealerships go unanswered;
  • When customers do connect with a dealer representative, 63% of the time there is no attempt to get customers to make an appointment;
  • 66% of the time, representatives do not ask for the customer’s contact information;
  • 77% of phone calls to dealerships are from new customers;
  • 74% of callers inquire about parts and services;
  • The percentage of customers calling about new or used cars, which are considered the most valuable type of leads, was 14%—substantially smaller than inbound phone calls for parts and services.

It should be no surprise that auto buyers, Millennials in particular, use mobile phones to help in researching and buying cars. Our data shows that dealerships are receiving a marked increased volume of calls, a rise that correlates directly to massive adoption of smartphones.

But here’s the rub: dealerships are failing in many ways to capture new sales through mobile phones. Based on our findings, many dealerships let opportunities to grow customer loyalty and sales slip right through their fingers.

So how do you make sure that your dealership is capturing the rise in leads driven by mobile phones? The answers might be surprisingly simple, in the form of some best practices:

  • You don’t know what you don’t track. Again, sixteen percent of calls to dealerships go unanswered, which means not answering the phone costs, this alone is big. A good call tracking solution will allow you to know how many calls you are missing and when.
  • Now that you know when you are missing most of the calls, staff your front desk operation intelligently. We’ve seen the highest number of unanswered calls from customers to dealerships happen during lunch hour, as well as the hour after lunch up to 2 p.m.
  • Simple changes can yield the great results. Once you get your customers on the phone, make sure you ask for contact information and an appointment. Relying on customers to stop by any time may sound open and flexible, but it does not help you to close the deal.
  • Treat your service customers like your car sale prospects. Since 74% of the calls are for service, this is your great opportunity to nurture new leads and build customer loyalty.

Data is empowering, especially when it leads to the establishment of some pretty easy best practices. The more dealerships have of it, the more you can focus on the customer experience and closing more sales.

Chen Zhao is Director of Analytics for The Marchex Institute, the data and insights arm of Marchex, a mobile advertising technology company based in Seattle.

Chen Zhao


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