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Digital consumer trends - don’t let car customers leave you behind online


By Steve Johnson

The digital tools now available to address automotive customers’ needs are powerful, effective and transforming processes across vehicle sales and servicing. From video to live chat, mobile devices and review facilities, these tools are not only meeting customers’ needs and expectations, but are making a sizeable and measurable difference to dealership successes.


♦  Websites must cater for growing number of mobile users
  Live chat and independent reviews becoming ‘must-haves’
  Dealers must personalise customers’ digital experience

Firstly, some basics – consistent, high-performance online delivery of information to PCs, tablets and smartphones is a pre-requisite for engaging your customers or they will, literally, be turned off.

Lauren Cooke, of digital specialists BlueSky Interactive, said: “Responsive design has been the biggest change – there’s really no need to maintain separate PC and mobile websites. Responsive websites raise conversion levels and are better for SEO purposes.”

The motor trade understands that mobile use is on the rise. GForces commercial director Tim Smith reported that 50% of mobile phone users use it as their primary means of accessing the internet, 72% of tablet users make a purchase online via tablets every week and 68% of users conduct research about potential purchases on their smartphone.

“We see a 30% increase in visits once a client’s site has gone responsive,” he said.

TrustFord (previously Ford Retail Group) backs up these numbers.  Marketing and ecommerce director Celia Pronto said: “We have seen an uplift in our online activity. Customers booking a service are increasingly using mobile devices, while those looking to buy a vehicle are using laptops, tablets and mobile.

“Telephone also remains an important enquiry channel and customers want a click-to-call facility. We truly believe that this omni-channel offering is the future of automotive retailing.”

Whatever the device or time of enquiry, speed of response is becoming a key differentiator. If the customer, typically browsing in the evenings or weekends, doesn’t get a quick response, there’s every chance their interest will be lost.

Trader Media Group’s Nick King said: “A recent survey said that 68% of respondents wanted a response to an enquiry within four hours, preferably one hour. Our experience is that on average, 50% take more than 24 hours to return a call or respond to an email. And that’s plainly not good enough.”


Live chat – the must-have tool for dealers

Live chat is becoming a must-have tool for dealers, particularly to address the customer’s growing desire for ‘instant’ attention. Cambria Automobiles and Ridgeway both use external resources to support their live chat programmes.

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