There’s No Need to Fight—Customers Want Mobile Apps from Both OEMs and Dealers

smartphone with apps

Dealers and OEMs alike have embraced the overwhelming consumer demand for mobile apps, making apps an important part of their respective retention, communication, marketing, and sales efforts. But does the market need a mobile app from both parties? Isn’t one app either from the dealer or from the OEM all that’s needed by the customer? The truth is that there’s actually a certain need for both OEM and dealer branded mobile apps in the market.

So let’s start with why this is true. On average, today’s consumers have 67 apps on their smartphone—that figure is up 209 percent since 2011. This demonstrates a growing consumer appetite to have multiple apps on their device, each being the right tool for a very specific job; it’s not a “‘one app fits all” scenario.

OEMs need an app to promote their brand and add functional value to their vehicles, gaining and retaining brand loyal customers. They interact with the vehicle in nearly magical ways with API integration, as well as offer OEM-provided services like 24-hour roadside assistance, substantially improving the ownership experience. But for all the good the OEM app does in improving the ownership experience, enriching the relationship between a dealer and their customer is not the mission of the OEM app. For example, an OEM app will typically show a consumer who’s in need of service, all the nearby dealerships, regardless of where the consumer bought or services their vehicle.

Dealers need an app that focuses on their specific business needs, expanding the customer relationship in new and profitable ways – improving customer retention, reminding them that service is needed for their car, that the dealer’s store is nearby and that the dealer is even offering coupons and discounts to service or buy at their store!

A dealership app must focus on bringing everyday value to the customer through features and tools that make the relationship with the dealer super easy for the customer; like real time “vehicle is ready for pick- up” notifications. These features will keep the customer coming back to the app, but more importantly, back to the dealership.

OEM and dealer apps simply serve different purposes.

There are some really cool “next wave” features coming that will continue to make the dealership app an indispensable customer service and retention tool. Dealers, make sure to talk to your app vendor to make sure these features are included on your product roadmap.

The technology to better “socialize” dealer branded apps for the customer is rapidly becoming available, allowing app providers to add functions like Apple Passbook integration for storage of the dealer’s coupons and discounts, enabling “Chat” to talk live with the dealer’s customer service representative, and even geo-fencing to allow location based services and notifications.

So while the “one app doesn’t fit all” statement remains true, the addition of third-wave features in a dealer- branded mobile app will continue to set the dealer app apart from the rest.

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

Michael Bowen


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