Embrace the internet or die. That was the warning from a dealer at one of AM’s recent round- tables, where discussion quickly turned to how the internet is being openly embraced as another vital tool in a dealer’s arsenal.
One specific area more dealers are exploring is live chat to instantly interact with customers.
An early adopter of the technology, Chris Butler, dealer principal at Heath Park Motor Company Peugeot, has recently installed a live chat system at his showroom which allows customers on their website to ask questions of the sales team.
Despite live chat being welcomed at the roundtable discussion, GForces, the web marketing company, claims it features on less than 10% of dealer websites.
GForces believes websites that offer visitors the chance to converse in real-time are likely to convert four times as many leads. This is according to research from The Effectiveness of Live Chat Technology: A Survey of Internet Shoppers 2009 by Bold Software. Dealers can download the free report at www.am-online.com/files/live_chat_effectiveness.
GForces commercial director, Tim Smith, told AM: “You need to be able to talk with potential customers immediately these days. Any delay or unanswered questions will lead to people clicking away from your site faster than you might think.”
Smith said dealers that had live chat were more likely to convert customers because of the speed with which they could answer their questions.
Live chat allows customers to remain in control of the conversation and people are likely to be more confident to ask things behind the safety of their computer screen than face to face.
John Simpson, managing director of Manheim Retail Services, said: “Dealers spend a lot of money on driving traffic to their website. It is therefore crucial that the customers on the website are given every opportunity to engage with the dealer for as long as possible.”
It’s not enough to just put live chat on a website though. All members of staff need to be able to deal with live chat enquiries as they come in.
Another early adopter of live chat technology is Peter Vardy in Glasgow. When it added live chat to its business it hired a new member of staff specifically to deal with any questions generated by the system.
Internet sales manager at Peter Vardy, Euan Cameron, said: “I can safely say that I cannot imagine our business without live chat now.
“It allows us to interact immediately with a customer and instigate an information exchange straight away. It can often take days to obtain the same information and rapport with the customer using email, during which time the car being discussed may well have been sold. I now consider this as being integral to our online strategy.”