Integrating Smartphone Technology in Car Dealerships
Incorporating QR codes in your conventional marketing strategy is just one way to use Smartphones to communicate with a quickly growing segment of the public. More than 285 million people, over 91 percent of the population have mobile phones in the U.S. and nearly 40 percent of those phones can access the internet. It's predicted that within the next 12 to 18 months the percentage of Smartphones will reach over 60 percent penetration.
There are many great Smartphone apps available today that truly engage car buyers, car enthusiasts, vehicle owners, car dealers and automotive industry professionals. The apps I’ve highlighted in this article only scratch the surface of what’s to come for mobile technology and application development in the near future.
Applications for Car Shoppers and Owners:
All car manufacturers look for ways to improve communication with owners and potential customers and to attract brand fans and car enthusiasts. Here is what some of the OEMs are doing.
General Motors has Smartphone apps for vehicle owners including myCadillac, myChevrolet, myGMC, and myBuick. These apps display all the practical and functional features a car owner wants to see and provides the Owner’s Manual right on the customers Smartphone. Customers can locate a dealer, schedule service appointments or get roadside assistance when they need it. Also offered in the apps are a parking reminder to find your car in parking lots and access the OnStar MyLink service used to unlock the doors, remote start the vehicle, and check the vehicles status.
Ford has incorporated “AppLink” with their Sync system. Sync is an in-car connectivity platform that allows drivers to make hands-free calls, control music and other functions with simple voice commands. Owners of Android and BlackBerry Smartphones (the iPhone will soon be included) will get in-car access to such services as Pandora Media online radio and Stitcher Smart Radio with the Sync AppLink, which allows cars to run a variety of other Smartphone apps.
The Chrysler Group (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram) has new apps for Android, Blackberry, and iPhone platforms for some 2011 models. They provide vehicle operation, maintenance and warranty information, as well as product feature video demonstrations, connections with fellow owners via the company’s brands on social media sites, access to customer care and 24-hour road-side assistance and other features depending upon the model.
The race is on. Smartphone apps are being developed at supersonic speed by automakers. Toyota now has an app allowing customers to get the latest Toyota info, live Twitter feeds and the ability to find the nearest Toyota dealership, which is perfect when traveling. Some of the latest Smartphone apps by manufacturers are: My Acura, Audi-CarMonitor, BMW-M Power Meter, Kia-Optimap, Lexus Enform Mobile, Mazda Assist, Mini-Mini Link, My Nissan Leaf, Porsche-gForce, Saab Automobile, Scion Owners, Smart-Smart Drive U.S., and Volvo On Call. These apps are continually improving with more options and features. Updates are pushed to the Smartphone via the application making it easy for vendors to provide the latest and greatest.
Applications for Salespeople and the Dealership
General Motors has Smartphone apps for Cadillac and Chevrolet salespeople; called the Cadillac Mobile Workbench and Chevy Mobile Workbench. The content in these apps is not intended for use or viewing by consumers. The Mobile Workbench apps are designed to provide relevant tools and information to sales personnel from their mobile device. The apps are feature rich with the ability to locate a vehicle of interest in dealers inventory or from trading partners’ inventory. It displays available exterior and interior color choices, checks for current GM offers, compares vehicles against key competitors and displays the top ten selling points for each vehicle. There is a VIN barcode scanning function used to verify the dealerships’ current in-stock inventory.
Using mobile apps can definitely benefit dealers, but the new mantra should be: “Dealer Beware!” Smartphone apps are popping up like dandelions arming buyers with knowledge, information and pricing. Dealership owners need to be careful not to allow this new hand-held technology and an “app happy” staff to change your current business model or strategies. You’ll know when you reach the technology saturation point when you and/or your staff begin to focus on working these applications instead of using them as the tool they are meant to be. All too often using applications becomes the job.
Neil Gale holds a Ph.D. from the London Institute for Applied Research in Business Management. Neil founded his third consulting firm, DrGale.com, which specializes in the set-up and development of car dealership's Business Development Centers and internet Departments. With over 40 dealer groups under his belt, Neil boasts an average increase of over 25 percent in car sales. For more information, visit www.DrGale.com or call 800-736-1036.