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Dealers encouraged to develop apps for Android to capture total UK market

Dealers that are developing smartphone applications should look at making them compatible on Android phones to reach the largest pool of customers in the UK.

According to analysis of 100 dealers by automotive software developer, DCML, only 26.6% of dealer apps are available on Android, despite the fact the Google Operating System is now responsible for 60% of all UK smartphone sales.

The research discovered that 30.61% of dealers have invested in developing a smartphone app so far.

In the first quarter of 2013, 13.4bn apps were downloaded globally.

Analysts forecast smartphone sales will account for 46% of all mobile sales in the UK by the end of the year.

Nick Flaherty, chief technical officer of DCML, said: “Against this backdrop, dealers investing in Apple only versions of their apps are simply failing to see the bigger picture and losing out on sales engagement opportunities with customers.”

Android’s operating system now accounts for approximately 60% of all smartphone and tablet sales, with Apple taking 20% and Microsoft’s Mobile Windows delivering a further 20% of the market.

Flaherty asserts that, with a mix of dealer proprietory and manufacturer-created apps, dealer adoption of apps as a marketing and sales mechanic is still in its infancy.

He said: “At the moment, apps are still just seen as the bastion of the sales process.

“But, for engagement and streamlining business efficiencies, aftersales-focused apps provide a real opportunity for servicing, MoT, vehicle health check promotions and more.”

Smartphone applications will only be successful if linked to something which is fun, entertaining or from the dealer perspective, it must feature a particularly unique and useful functionality. A useful app could enchance a dealer's web offering in addition to a mobile compatible website which works smoothly on smartphones and tablets.

Rybrook BMW’s app was highlighted as a good example of what dealers can do using smartphone technology to engage with customers.

The Rybrook app provides up-to-date visibility of all current used stock, it provides for push notifications of special events and promotions directly to the end user’s smartphone.

Running in parallel with current trends, tablet sales are expected to top 208m units in 2013 globally.

Flaherty said: “Consumer expectation is beyond dealer application at present.

“By 2017, three of every four online sales will be derived from tablet and smartphone technology. Dealers need to start scoping out how they can embrace this to benefit their sales and customer retention functions.”

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  • Nobby - 03/07/2013 14:35

    Lots of people seem to think that Apps are the way forward, well dependant on what they provide they might be. Remember an App has to be downloaded by the user. Whereas a properly optimised website will work on all tablet formats within the browser on demand. It does not necessarily have to be a replication of the website, it can be a 'light' version that is more nimble and efficient to users on the move. The article mentions Rybrooks ability to show up to date stock information, doesn't their website do that? Don't be fooled into spending big money on an App that may have a short shelf life, look to ensure that what you have is effective across all platforms.

    • tomseymour - 03/07/2013 14:40

      @Nobby - Totally agree. There's got to be a really good useful reason for someone to take the time to download an app, let alone go back to it regularly. There's no reason why dealers couldn't develop something useful though.

    • James - 03/07/2013 14:53

      @Nobby - I agree, struggling to think where an App would benefit a dealer over a responsive website. With regards a 'light' version, this is something that should be avoided. Try and keep all the functionality regardless of the screen resolution. Recent examples are the AutoExposure Flex, Bluesky, ClickDealer and Responsive Digital sites which have all the functionality but display them differently, based on screen resolution.

    • Nobby - 03/07/2013 15:02

      @tomseymour - I think its another typical of example of a 'buzz' word in this case Apps and the industry all feeling like they have to keep up in fear of missing out. What many do not realise is what they have already does not work on tablets and that needs addressing. I agree with you Tom, Apps do have many uses, I use any number of them. But as you say it needs to be useful, areas such as service booking directly into the workshop scheduler would be one example, these sort of developments are probably better initiated at brand level and filtered into the network for the consumer to choose the local dealership.

    • Nobby - 03/07/2013 15:07

      @James - James, That's fine when users have good screen sizes, but many users have Blackberry's and sites just do not function on these screens. In this instance a lighter more succinct site, used cars, opening hours, contact details and directions is best utilised. Technology allows for the viewing device to be identified and as such the 'usable' data is presented.

    • James - 03/07/2013 20:10

      @Nobby - Nobby, Blackberry's aren't too bad on the responsive sites we've tested against but I take your point. The real challenge is catering for all devices and bowsers - there are simply too many combinations and the software industry cannot keep up nor realistically support them. This simply means that users of older technology will get left behind. Slight 'off piste', Google Apps don't support IE 6,7 or 8 for instance. Our analytics show there are still plenty of dealers using 7&8 and some of these constraints are due to some DMS providers not updating their own platforms to work with modern browsers. Other issues will be performance on early tablets/smartphones as they often struggle, due to their older processors. I think the answer is trying to please the majority, knowing you can't realistically cover the whole of market but not necessarily dumbing down to help the techno stragglers!