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Dealers missing deadline on web sales

Car buyers are becoming more internet-savvy, but dealerships aren’t, according to a study showing that 65% of customers who want to buy cars via the internet never receive a response to an online query.

The figures relate to customers who are requesting quotes or more information via websites of dealerships or dealership groups in the research carried out by lead generation company Askaprice.com.

The internet is the first point of research to more than half of car buyers and 90% of consumers are using the internet to access reviews and to compare prices. Increasingly, car buyers are also using the internet to get quotes.

Despite a boom in internet sales, a third of motor traders don’t use the new medium at all. Out of the remaining dealerships, only few have grasped how the internet can be harnessed to boost sales.

"There is a big difference between selling cars from walk-ins, and selling cars via internet leads," says Anton Hanley, managing director of Askaprice.com. "We find that some of our best dealers manage to get up to 20% conversion. To do so, persistence and speed is the key."

He says research has shown there is a ‘sweet spot’ of about 20 minutes from when web users press the ‘submit’ button. This is the amount of time during which a potential customer should ideally be contacted since they will still be in the ‘buying zone’, and keen to make decisions about their future vehicle.

"Even if you miss the first 20 minutes, responding quickly is paramount. A report by Cap Gemini showed that more than half of customers expect a response to their web-queries within 24 hours. 30% expect a response within as little as four hours.

"After the initial contact sales leads need to be followed up carefully via emails or telephone, until the customer is ready to take delivery of a vehicle."

The Askaprice.com survey was carried out by Trend Tracker, the independent industry analyst.

The research was conducted by accessing 20 car dealership websites through the relevant vehicle assembler site and emailing a request to provide further information regarding finance details for the purchase of either a new or used car. 65% of dealerships contacted did not respond within four days of the email request being sent.

Hanley said: "This problem can be backed up from the leads which we send out to new dealer partners. They believe that internet leads are mainly time wasters when in actual fact they are in the market to buy if the right price and service can be achieved. The mentality of many sales people means that leads are not followed up and consequently good conversion rates are not achieved."

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