App for Dealers: Innovations that will Drive Profitable Growth in 2019

best app for car dealerships

2019 is here and with it a renewed focus on growth and technology like app for dealers. As 2018 has seen a flattening automotive retail market, dealers in the auto industry are asking: “How are we going to make 2019 better and drive profitable and sustainable growth?”

According to NADA’s Annual Research, gross profit from a dealer’s service department is up to 49 percent, compared to 45 percent since 2012. As dealerships continue to adapt to the new service experience economy, a new Cox Automotive Study goes on to maintain that 74 percent of customers who serviced their vehicle with a dealership in the last 12 months will return to purchase their next vehicle from that same dealership.  With growing pressure on new car sales volumes, this presents a ripe opportunity for dealers to leverage fixed operations as a principal source of retention and profitability, while improving variable sales by securing long-term loyalty throughout the customer’s vehicle ownership lifecycle.  

With this goal in mind, an app for dealers presents major growth opportunities for dealerships to win over new vehicle buyers directly through their smartphones and capture their loyalty for life through a Mobile, Local & Personal customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at how dealerships can leverage a technology-enhanced mobile experience to improve customer acquisition, increase service appointments, and drive store-wide profitability in 2019 and beyond.

1. MOBILE – Retain Customers for Life

While dealerships will continue to play a significant role as primary channels for building personal contact and relationships with customers, they will need to adapt their sales and fixed operations’ infrastructure to a new generation of consumer preferences that necessitate a mix of physical and digital presence.

In today’s ultra-connected world where every customer and shopper has a smartphone, automotive retail is evolving to a customer-centric mobile approach to drive long-term loyalty. Mobile-savvy customers prefer an app for dealers, including the convenience of scheduling a service and paying for repair orders from their smartphone; they love to share deals with family and friends; they appreciate the peace of mind that they get with one-touch call roadside assistance; and they are keen to visit the dealership and save money with digital coupons and loyalty reward programs.

Timely engagement and digital follow-ups conducted at each stage of the buyer’s journey helps dealerships to increase customer acquisition. Similarly, delivering the right message with the right incentive at the right time in the ownership lifecycle increases the likelihood of winning the next service visit. As the vehicle lifecycle matures, timing and value creation helps dealerships to nurture the customer relationship resulting in a higher probability that the customer will return to purchase their next vehicle from the same dealership. Net result – customer for life.

2. LOCAL – Convert More Shoppers to Customers  

The growth in GPS technology is fueling geo-mobile marketing as one of the most effective lead generation and service retention strategies today. An app for dealers helps dealership sales and service staff to effectively connect with customers and active buyers directly through their smartphones – in the moment when they are ready to buy a vehicle or schedule a service. 

Similar to geofencing, geo-mobile marketing allows dealerships to set up a virtual perimeter around their location as well as competitor lots. When customers and potential buyers pass through the perimeter, they trigger a timely and personalized message alert to their smartphone, enticing them to engage the dealership. The digital call-to-action promotes participation such as view inventory, schedule a service appointment, capture a loyalty reward, share a deal, take a virtual tour, redeem a digital coupon, or attend a sales event.

Geo-mobile marketing goes one step further by alerting the dealer’s sales and service staff when prospects and customers are visiting a competitors’ lot, and prompts them to initiate a timely and personalized follow up based on detailed analytics on the name of the person, the dealership they’re visiting, and time of day. Timing is of the essence. With this critical insight, an app for dealerships helps dealers to outpace their competition by directly connecting with prospects looking to make a near-term purchase and retain customers looking to schedule a service appointment.

3. PERSONAL – Differentiate the Customer Experience

The next generation of personalization enhances the customer experience by connecting a user’s coveted smartphone with their vehicle diagnostics and dealership service department. It’s like tracking your personal exercise with a Fitbit, but for your car.

With one simple click of a button on a smartphone, drivers can instantly run a health check on their vehicle. Drivers see real-time personalized vehicle data such as engine problems, battery voltage, tire and brake maintenance, trip history, and much more. This level of personalization empowers customers to proactively monitor their vehicles and stay better connected with the dealerships’ service team with a direct hotline via their preferred choice of communications, such as a phone call, chat, text or online service scheduler.

Dealerships deliver a differentiated, value-added service by proactively monitoring their customers’ vehicles in the cloud. With real-time insight on mileage and the health of each vehicle, dealers can send automated personalized maintenance alerts such as oil change, brakes, tires and checkups directly to their customers’ smartphones, thereby increasing the lifetime value of each customer. As new-vehicle dealerships handle only about 30% of service work across the country, offering this level of personalized engagement will have a tremendous edge over competing dealerships and third-party repair shops.

2019 Ahead: App for Dealers

Leveraging a technology-enhanced mobile experience gives dealerships the opportunity to better connect with a new generation of vehicle buyers, differentiate their experience, and create customers for life. Dealerships that embrace a mobile app strategy that engages customers at every stage of their buying journey and vehicle ownership lifecycle will increase customer acquisition, improve service retention and gain the ultimate competitive edge.

About Author

Tony della Busa is the CEO of Mobile Dealer, a leading provider of app for dealers. Mobile Dealer delivers a leap innovation in mobile technology, helping dealerships to increase customer acquisition, increase monthly service appointments, drive storewide profitability, and enhance the buyer & customer experience.