Auto Trader will launch 'managed' live chat technology for dealerships following its research into customer activity on its website which shows two thirds of searches on the classifieds website taking place between 7pm and 11pm.
Dealers are aware of how consumer buying behaviour is changing, with spikes in online activity when customers are searching for cars on their iPad on the sofa after dinner.
The research from Auto Trader which led to the launch of 'managed' chat technology was jointly conducted by Mediahawk.
Managed Chat is like Live Chat, but the conversation is managed by an Auto Trader representative, rather than a member of the dealer’s staff.
While the demands from customers are changing, the research also showed that the telephone is very much alive as the main choice of contact for customers during the day, with 98% of tracked phone calls taking place between 8am and 6pm.
However, the mix between telephone calls during the day and keeping the conversation online is a trend which continues to be increasing.
Auto Trader said 74% would be happy to make an out of hours enquiry to a dealer. One in seven – or 14% - said they would prefer to use a live chat service, reflecting a desire to interact online without the pressure that might come from a direct call during normal opening hours.
Auto Trader believes Live Chat is filling the gap for dealers when the physical showroom doors have closed. It said one retailer group with over 20 sites that it works with has reported over 6,000 Live Chats per month and was able to directly correlate these to 30% of sales.
Nick King, market research director at Auto Trader, said: “In the modern interconnected world, consumers expect a swift and professional response to queries and questions, even out of hours, and retailers must make sure they are available to engage at any time.
“This requires a different kind of mind-set to what has gone on in the past. Adopting a live chat or managed chat service may well be the difference between seizing the opportunity for every sale and losing a hot lead to a competitor.”
> Mediahawk case study into lead frequency and response.
Please add your views to this story. Is live chat a differentiator or is it the new standard to cover out of hours communications with customers? Do you operate a 24/7 live chat service in your business?