CommentaryJul 26th, 2012

Is Your Dealership Ready for the Real-Time Shopper?


It’s not 2008 anymore. Consumer expectations, communication preferences, and shopping behaviors have all changed due to mass public adoption of smartphones and tablets. Consider the following statistics:

According to a report by online monitor, Pingdom, mobile browsing has increased 69 percent since 2010. In fact, mobile internet use is set to surpass desktop internet use by 2015 (Morgan Stanley Research, The Mobile Internet Report, 2009). The Nielsen Company first declared in September 2008 that text messaging surpassed phone calling as the primary means of communication. Cell phone users send 41.5 text messages per day as opposed to 12.3 voice calls (Pew Research Center, 2011). Forty-nine percent of mobile consumers say they frequently use their smartphones while shopping (The Nielsen Company, The Mobile Media Report: State of the Media, 2011).

Take a look around. Everywhere you turn, whether at a coffee shop, a restaurant, or in a hotel lobby, people are moving about with their heads down, looking at their electronic devices. Consumers today use technology to “like,” Tweet, shop, ask questions, browse reviews, find coupons, and get directions instantly.

A 2012 Ruder Finn Mobile Intent Index Study said that, "91 percent of mobile users go online to socialize, compared to only 79 percent of traditional users. They are using their mobile phones 'at the moment' to connect with others."

For decades, placing a phone call was the quickest way to obtain certain information. In most cases, that's just not the reality anymore. Search engines like Google and Bing, with the help of legions of online databases and forums, have majored in the art of answering every question imaginable. Questions not readily answered by search engines, can be addressed by reaching out to networks on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or Google+, for example. For any questions that may remain, live chat now provides instant access into dealerships without the runaround and probing typically associated with a phone call.

Today's consumers are empowered like never before with real-time communication tools and information. Using the internet, shoppers can maintain their anonymity and remain in control of the buying process longer.

In 2011, Google published The Auto Shopper Behavior Study, which asserted that today's vehicle shoppers (1) research and decide faster, (2) search to navigate and compare, and (3) rely on their mobile devices to research on the go. For dealers, resisting the demands of today's real-time shopper during the discovery process is a risky proposition in a world full of options. Despite the access and convenience technology now provides, many dealers have been slow to adapt and instead, continue to rely on old marketing habits (dial the number or fill out the form) and legacy structures for engaging with shoppers and capitalizing on available lead opportunities. According to industry tracking website,, as of June 2012, approximately 79 percent of dealers still do not allow consumers to chat with them from their dealership website.

So, how can dealerships begin to embrace this new reality? In the past two years, progressive internet directors like Criss Castle, Chris Forsyth, Marc Ray and Wayne Ussery have helped their dealerships stay ahead of the curve by taking a hard look at their structures and processes and by beginning to optimize for local search, live chat, social media, and other real-time response mechanisms as a way to increase sales opportunities. Speaking on just the implementation of live chat alone, Chris Forsyth of David Stanley Chrysler stated that "Contact At Once! fully managed chat is responsible for a 25 percent increase in our sales, both new and used."

The bottom line is that it's just not 2008 anymore. The sooner your dealership adjusts appropriately to the real-time communication preferences and demands of today's car shopper, the sooner it becomes more competitive and fills the funnel with sales opportunities.

If you're interested in learning practical ways to help you dealership prepare for and engage today's real-time shopper, I'd like to personally invite you to attend my breakout session at the upcoming AutoCon Conference and Expo, September 5-8. For information and to register, visit

Ed Parkinson has been working with automotive dealers for 27 years and has championed many new services that "move the needle" for his customers. Ed helped pioneer the use of call tracking and measurement to increase sales and quantify the return-on-marketing during his seven years at Who's Calling Inc. Ed began selling and coaching auto dealers on Contact At Once! services in 2006 and joined the company as vice president of sales in April, 2007. He holds a B.B.A in Marketing and Management from Temple University.

Authored by

Cody Larson

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