Dialing Mobile 911

I received a call on my mobile phone (how appropriate to start this column) asking, “As an auto dealer, how familiar are you with how mobile technology is affecting the used-car shopping experience?”

I like to think that I have a current outlook on how consumers and dealers are using mobile technology. After all, I have seen the benefits that the mobile revolution has brought to my stores. I love strategic text marketing and geographically mapping my service department’s direct number so that smartphone users will call for roadside breakdowns via Google.

However, technology and its uses change fast. I figured I had better investigate more before dispatching advice.

What I can say without hesitation is if you are an automobile dealer and your website is not optimized for your mobile customers, you are missing a large and quickly growing retail sales opportunity.

To clarify, we are discussing smartphones in this article, not the Motorola “brick phone” from back in the day. The only thing smart about those phones was that they could be used as a roadside hammer and “pocket dialing” was impossible.

But seriously, smartphones combine the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA), media player, digital/video camera, GPS and most importantly (for this article) a Web browser with a mobile phone, in case you were wondering.

Today, businesses are consistently hammering out profits using mobile applications that improve access to information, places and items that consumers want to purchase. Applications like Yelp for restaurant advice or Über to catch a cab rather than searching, calling, and waiting are tools I use all the time.

Other Apps include Google Maps and iMap for directions and searches for gas, food, hotels and other brick-and-mortar stores. Frankly, mobile has changed everything, including the way we do what we do.

In researching for this article, I discovered some amazing facts and equally amazing ideas about how our industry is using mobile smart phones. First, I researched Google where they track everything from our favorite websites to favorite search words and everything mobile.

Here are some interesting numbers: 63 percent of mobile phone users have a smartphone; 70 percent of shoppers use their smartphone while in the store; and 57 percent are shopping other dealers’ inventory while they contemplate buying the car in front of them.

Good news: 49 percent of smart phone searchers bought the same day that they searched, and 36 percent made the purchase within an hour. I love that number. New qualifying line: “How did you find this car?” “Oh, on your cell phone! Follow me (to the closing booth)!”

Here are a few more stats: 44 percent of smartphone users, which we have now defined as the majority of our customer base, use their phone to find your business.

Question, does your dealership show up? Thirty-six percent use it to look up your number. And a growing number use Siri to do this search. If you don't know what Siri is, we Siri'ously need to talk.

What do you think of these statistics? I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised. Even more surprising is that these numbers are about 22 percent higher than the previous year.

When considering the math, the potential market advantage/disadvantage is huge. I did some further research to see how many dealership websites are mobile optimized.

Meaning that when a smartphone user goes to a site, does it change to a format that is usable on their phone or tablet? Research showed only 20 percent of dealers have mobile optimized sites. What is that knocking I hear? I believe it is profit opportunity at the door!

Ok, enough numbers. What do you do from here? First, are you showing up on Google, Bing and Yahoo? Second, are your dealerships website mobile optimized?

Does your information show up when you search from a smartphone? Third, do you have a Wiki and Yelp page? This is important because this is how Siri accesses your dealership information.

With over 100,000,000 smartphone users in the United States asking these questions, it could be the profit breakthrough you’ve been looking to achieve.

Lastly, does your entire organization have an understanding what it means to the bottom-line the next time someone shows up at your dealership with a smartphone in hand?

Does your sales staff have an understanding of the smart phone customer and a strategy when it comes to meeting their expectations? You can leverage the technology and sell them a vehicle today.

While Yelp helped me find a restaurant to meet a colleague tomorrow, I bet more than a few people were looking for a dealership, a service phone number, and/or searching to view vehicle inventory. Were they able to find yours?

My final thought: If you own a dealership or any business, mobile truly needs to be part of your business plan. When calling 911 the question is always “What’s your emergency?” to gain the information necessary to send the right personnel to the rescue.

Are you in a 911 “mobile emergency?” If you want more information or could use some guidance, please give me a call. I'm on Google.