Leading the Third Wave of the Mobile App Revolution

tablet and smartphone

“Engagement with the customer today isn’t just pouring a message down their head and hoping they get wet, it really is understanding that you must be present in a conversation when they want to have it, not when you want to.”

-Bob Thacker, Gravitytank Strategic Advisor and former CMO of Office Max.

The trouble with modern revolutions is that they keep coming faster and bring with them more profound change than ever before. Just as we were settling down into the computer age, the internet arrived and reshaped our industry. Then, as we quickly became accustomed to the web, social media grabbed control of the world and made us deal with this new form of communication. Now it’s happening again, with mobile and mobile apps, only quicker and causing fundamental change that we’re just now starting to grasp.

“The rate of iOS and Android adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history,” according to Flurry Analytics. It’s being adopted “ten times faster than that of the 80s PC Revolution, two times faster than that of the 90s internet boom and three times faster than that of the recent social network adoption.”

Your customers are having an intimate relationship with their mobile device. Sounds kinda racy? Well, two thirds of the population sleeps next to their mobile device, according to a 2009 Synovate study. That’s hundreds of millions of Americans who are connected to their mobile device day and night, people who have closer relationships with their iPhone or Android than they might with an actual human being.

People are actually spending more time now using apps than browsing the web, according to Flurry Analytics. In the past two years mobile searches have grown 400 percent, according to the 2011 Automotive Shopping Behavior Study, and as the Google Mobile Playbook puts it, “the question is no longer ‘why should I invest in mobile?’ but ‘how should I invest in mobile?’” And at Google, [they] believe that your success in mobile will determine the future of your business.”

Total app downloads measure in the billions and the number of adult cell phone owners who’ve downloaded an app to their phone doubled in the past year, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. According to Apple Inc., there are over 650,000 apps available in the App Store. The number of apps expected to be downloaded worldwide this year is 36 billion, and the average smartphone user worldwide is expected to download 37 apps, according to ABI Research.

Oops! Excuse me for a moment—it’s 12:01am PT on Sept 14th, and Apple just opened up pre-order sales for iPhone 5…and…Ok! Done! Using the Apple App Store app, I just ordered the iPhone 5 (even cooler, I did it on my current iPhone while I’m in flight on my way to Seattle). Apple will have it waiting for me at my local Apple store in about a week. And I did it in less than two minutes and paid for it via iTunes. And it’s this powerful union of persistently connected mobile devices and apps that is remaking retail across every industry, including automotive.

The first wave of mobile apps in the automotive space arrived less than two years ago, providing consumers with simple ownership tools and vehicle inventory. As Google’s Zero Moment of Truth reminds us, “We’re entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that is useful or helpful to their lives. It happens in real time, any time of the day.” And thus began the next wave of mobile app innovation.

The second wave of mobile apps is now upon us, evolving from the simple, disconnected first wave experience, to deliver a much more seamless experience; it gives the consumer the tools to manage their family fleet without reentering data time and again, that recognizes and rewards their loyalty to you, and coordinates messages and offers in the mobile app with the targeted offline and online messages produced by your lifecycle marketing strategy.

Second wave apps have become the most powerful platform ever for managing customer relationships. We know from Driver Connect (our dealer branded mobile app) that the average user spends nearly 21 minutes in the app with each visit, verses an average of five or so minutes spent on a dealer website. In addition, twice as many pages are viewed by the app users than an average dealer website.

The coming third wave of evolution will enable a more graceful and modern customer experience, enhancing the service you provide with timely updates and other information for the consumer, with the ability to learn much more about your customers and provide them with tailored and targeted offers for products and services that dramatically enhance their ownership experience, and allow you to conduct commerce immediately. Due to their superior speed, ease of use and greater depth of features, apps are particularly more effective at getting people closer to the dealership than are mobile websites.

This means that the mobile app opens up not only the opportunity to finally deliver on the long sought vision of communicating the right message at the right time via the right channel, but that mobile apps enable dealers to capitalize on a “long tail” marketing strategy; keeping in constant use by your customer, creating the opportunity to learn more about your customers, and sell them more products and services over a longer period of time. All driven by the simple tap of a finger.

Your app success really happens when the consumer becomes attached to the app. It is imperative that your app is retained by 30 percent of downloaders, said Kirsten Purcell of the Pew Research Center. You have to make is easy for your customer to connect with you instead of making it an obstacle. And in fact, 40 percent of people said they have turned to a competitor after a bad mobile experience, according to Google’s Mobile Playbook.

Give consumers useful, clever tools and practical value in their everyday life that keep them coming back to the app frequently or their fingers will tap the delete button. Over the past 30 days, 75 percent of the consumers accessing Driver Connect, the DMEautomotive dealer-branded mobile app, were return visitors. Among consumer users of Driver Connect, 30 percent of all app users, who were due for some kind of service, scheduled a service appointment via the app. That’s massive dealer value.

The technology we once thought (like, maybe even 10 years ago) as only happening in science fiction is today’s reality. Mobile apps are more than a lifestyle; they bring you far closer to your customer than you have ever been, greatly enhancing their experience with your dealership.

Get an app for your dealership. Right now. Just do it. Then review and analyze the data your app supplies, and apply it. Keep improving your device based on what you learn from user communications and by embracing this always-on behavior, you can surf the third wave to some serious success!

Mike Martinez is Chief Marketing Officer of DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing that provides a range of marketing services to the biggest and most innovative automotive organizations in the industry. For more information, email dme@dealermark.com

Michael Bowen


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