A growing number of car dealers believe in the power of mobile technology as a means to deliver a more meaningful experience for their customer: the car buyer. What’s more, mobile technology is helping car dealers sell more of their cars to consumers, who are using smartphone devices and tablets to research cars they’re interested in buying.
According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, it is expected that mobile technology and devices will soon become a standard resource for 87% of car shoppers. Clearly, it goes without saying that mobile is already a large part of the automotive landscape and will only grow more important for shoppers and dealers alike.
All that being said, while mobile technology and apps are becoming a regular part of consumers’ car-shopping habits, are dealers themselves utilizing mobile apps properly for their own business purposes? More importantly, are mobile apps truly giving dealers the competitive edge they need in order to make split-second, profitable decisions on cars they bring onto the lot for resale?
This is an important question, because while mobile technology aims to help both consumers and dealers alike for their individual needs, they both use the technology in somewhat different ways.
Consumers leverage mobile apps in order to do everything from research vehicle prices, find local inventory, make service appointments, and even purchase a new car. The technology works for them, because it helps to equip them with the knowledge they need in order to make the right decision. However, they also have time on their side. In most cases, the rhythm of research and purchase is up to their calendar.
Conversely, dealers utilize mobile apps to research wholesale inventory, evaluate pricing data, and research history reports for vehicle conditions. The main difference is that a dealer doesn’t dictate the timing of their wholesale purchase for inventory. Instead, they must make split-second decisions at an online or physical auction, competing against a multitude of other dealers.
Time is of the essence when it comes to dealers and mobile apps. “The mobile app I use must be a one-stop shop where I can see everything in a single source,” said Josh Lukasik of GA-based Don Jackson Automotive. “Speed of the app is also critical, and sometimes it all comes down to the type of internet service you have.”
This is where frustrations and challenges mount for dealers, who appreciate the mobile aspect of technology, but still find challenges in its deployment.
Lukasik may not be alone in his assessment, given the unstable nature of internet connectivity and wifi reliability. Particularly noticeable at physical auctions, are dealers losing out on the right car at the right price, because of slow internet connections? After all, what’s the point of having a sleek-looking mobile app with all the technological bells and whistles if a slow internet connection limits your chance of squeezing the most profit out of a car?
Consumers and dealers are ultimately leveraging mobile technology for roughly the same activity. They both have a desire to get the right car at the right price. The main difference, of course, is consumers aren’t trying to rely on their mobile app to make a split-second decision on the fly with hundreds of other car shoppers all competing for the same car.
Jim Bailey of Jefferson Ford uses mobile technology mainly for appraising cars, car auctions, trade-ins, and market reports. Internet connectivity is one area where its impact on app performance often goes under the radar. “There are many times when I’m not paying attention to connectivity issues,” he said. “The tricky part is that some areas of the dealership have better connectivity than others, which can delay the process depending on where you’re at when you need to make decisions.”
One common denominator among the many automotive professionals that use mobile apps is that there is a lot of advanced technology at their fingertips. In many cases, the tools and resources have given these professionals the ability to streamline their overall automotive business process. However, in spite of all the technological advancement, if the app and usage can’t match the speed of business at which today’s car operations work, it won’t have an impact on the ability to drive higher profits. Today’s car business is as cutthroat as ever, and gaining a competitive edge is what everyone’s looking for. This competitive edge might be found in the timing of information access, in addition to the technology that delivers it.
Mike Williams is vice president of mobile and direct sales for Black Book, a leading provider of timely, independent, and accurate vehicle pricing information. Black Book data is available to industry qualified users through subscriptions to www.BlackBookAuto.com and through applications for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 7, BlackBerry, Palm and virtually any other smartphone sold in the U.S.0