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Dealers should realize people are engrossed with their smartphones.

I just returned home to Atlanta after a 2-day speaking adventure in Dayton and Columbus, OH. Still traveling 200 days a year, somehow I envisioned I would have slowed down by now.

As I sat in the Delta Sky Club waiting for my outbound flight, I became acutely aware of the behavior of people around me. They suffer from a disease that’s epidemic, probably pandemic. It’s a hopeless addiction and, most likely, incurable.

Everywhere I looked, people were standing or sitting with their heads down, fully engrossed by their handheld mobile devices that connect us and give us access to virtually all of the information and knowledge accumulated in the history of our world.

Besides that, we use our mobile devices to post pictures, play games, and communicate with strangers on social networks, occasionally research products and even transact purchases.

Walking through the airport later, I was amused to see two Catholic nuns sitting quietly and texting on their smartphones. We’ve all heard that even the Pope is now on Twitter. I’m imagining the Pontiff playing “Angry Birds” on his iPhone.

You’d have to live in a cave to not know the entire world has gone mobile. The zombie apocalypse is already happening. They’ll run you down in the grocery stores or change three lanes abruptly in traffic. It’s not distracted driving, it’s distracted living. People are totally immersed in their handheld mobile devices. If you’re not there, you’re nowhere.

Unfortunately that’s exactly where most dealerships are today. I visit hundreds, if not thousands of dealership websites. I see the good, the bad and the ugly.

Have you looked at your dealership’s website on your mobile device recently? I mean really looked at it? Take a moment and look at your inventory online in mobile format. Go to every page and tap on every link and get a feel for what consumers would experience if they shopped you online using a smartphone.

Most dealers will find their mobile presence inadequate and underperforming. Dealers tell me, “Hey Jim, our website is built by a major website provider in the industry.” Okay, no problem with that. But is your mobile website as good as what you pull up on desktop PC? Probably not. Even some of the most established website providers in our industry are building really lame mobile sites. Check it out and demand better.

I could go into a tirade about what a dealership website is supposed to do, but we’ll save that for later. I will say this: Your website is supposed to convert visitors to sales. Few websites are built by people who understand sales. They just don’t get what the real mission is.

We are now living in a world of bar codes, QR codes, hashtags and mobile apps. If you don’t get it, you’ll be crushed by savvier competitors and ambitious vendors. Cutting-edge dealers now have inventory for the shopper’s iPhone. You don’t have to be a technology expert to be able to know what technology does, what it should do and what your technology is not doing.

For instance, does your dealership have its own smartphone app, available in iPhone and Android versions? That is crucial to customer retention. Bear in mind, the manufacturers and the vendors already have the apps they’re using to control and even steal your customers.

If manufacturers or vendors can get their apps on a consumer’s phone, then in effect they own them. Your dealership needs to immediately have its own personalized dealership app developed.

In the finance office or during the delivery process, ask customers with smartphones to download your app, preferably before they leave the store. Service advisers should do the same with their customers.

A dealership app can keep the customer updated on recalls, routine service, new models and lease specials. It’s a much more effective way of staying in touch.

BTW: Texting the customer is dangerous and the new laws are scary. Even with opt-in texting, it is still a legal minefield with heavy penalties. I recently have seen some real goofy companies selling mass-texting.

What they are doing is totally illegal. Some of these companies have been around for a long time and you tend to trust them. Be careful with texting customers no matter who is doing it for you.

Well that’s my latest rant. A couple Remy-Martin Louis XIII Cognacs and a good night’s rest after my travels. Keep those emails and comment coming.

Jim Ziegler president of Ziegler Supersystems based in metro Atlanta, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reached at zieglerss@aol.com. WardsAuto readers also may comment on this article by logging in or registering below.

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What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.

Contributors

Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for WardsAuto.com. His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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