The most effective tool for communicating with your customer base in today’s market is a mobile phone app. This is not to say that other types of communication such as your CRM, email campaigns, telemarketing, radio and TV don’t always work, but they don’t have the reach of a dealer-branded phone app.
According to Martin Uthreras, an independent mobile marketing consultant, “Mobile advertising is effective at all levels of the marketing funnel, from awareness to conversion. People are glued to their phones and there are plenty of campaign measures to prove its effectiveness.” The average person looks at their phone 58 times a day. They spend between four and five hours a day looking at their phone. For a communication tool, you couldn’t ask for a better, more effective method.
In the automotive industry, phone apps are considered new, and the bulk of customer apps are provided by the manufacturer. In fact, most franchised dealers are graded on the number of downloads the app receives. This works great for the factory to promote its message to your customer, but who wants to have the same message that everyone with your brand has? The entire purpose of developing any of the above-mentioned communication tools is to brand yourself as unique in your primary market area.
The beauty of an individual dealer-branded mobile app is the fact that you control the message. All your email campaigns can be downloaded to the app. Your TV spots can be posted on the app. You can check your rewards points on the app. Show your inventory, start a valet service, schedule service appointments, the list is endless. How about adding credit card processing to the app for customer convenience? Almost anything you are currently doing to communicate with your customer or make the customer experience better can be made simpler and easier with a dealer-branded mobile app.
The app is truly the communication method that pulls it all together. You send an email to your customer that they have an oil change due. They may or may not look at their computer that day. If you send the same message as a notification on their phone, they will see it almost instantly. Many dealers are content with the manufacturer to provide this service. This only solves half of the problem. You need to be the gatekeeper of the message. Factory apps are not customizable, nor do they brand your message. Branding is the name of the game; we are all trying to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Having your message show up instantly in your customer’s hand is a game changer. Develop your dealer-branded app around what’s important to you and your customer. Don’t let the manufacturer decide the message.
There is no more powerful tool out there to communicate with your customer base than your dealer-owned app. From sales to service, you can instantly communicate your message. One word of advice, however, there are three steps you want to follow to be highly successful with a dealer owned app. One is design and how do you want your app to look? What is the flow? It is very important to have an app that is easy to operate and contains all the information you want to share with your customer. Second, your staff needs to be trained on the importance of the app and how to present it to the customer. You need to make sure the app is downloaded at the time of sale or during the next service visit. And last, implementation. You must set up your app, so it is exciting and meaningful to your customer. Make it customer-centric! Don’t make it about your inventory, meet our staff and just trying to sell them more stuff. Make it about their vehicle, their rewards points, their service history and how using it meets their needs.
Next time you’re in the service department waiting room, look around at the people sitting there. How many are reading a magazine, how many are watching TV and how many are looking at their phone?
At the end of the day, having a robust dealer-owned app will make your brand stronger and create more satisfied and loyal customers.