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New Research: Digital & Mobile Are Re-Writing the Rules on How People Research, Select and Book Appointments with Auto Service Providers

DMEautomotive survey reveals that online search is the #1 way first-time consumers select dealership service departments - trumping 'drive-bys' and personal recommendations

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 

  • Internet/mobile search is the #1 way a dealership's first-time customer finds/selects them (29%).
  • Dealers are locked in a competitive battle with the aftermarket: 82% of service consumers report they typically use the same service center, but only 37% always visit dealership for service.
  • Non-digital sources of service info taking major hits: only 51% now use owner's manual (down from 61% in 2011), and only 26% consult actual service centers (down from 43%).
  • 59% of auto servicers now read emails on their mobile phones – up from 45% a year ago.
  • More than 1 in 4 under-35 consumers will ONLY use service centers that offer online appointment scheduling and upfront, online/emailed price quotes.

DMEautomotive, the science-inspired, results-based automotive marketing leader, today announced key findings from a national survey (among roughly 2,000 car owners) that reveals how consumers now learn about - and ultimately select - auto service providers: from which resources had the biggest impact on a dealer's first-time customers, to what most drives customers to return to a store.

Released at the 2014 National Automobile Dealers Association convention, the findings were clear: a proliferation of digital channels (from search to emailed coupons) is powerfully transforming how a dealership or aftermarket service provider is chosen and retains their customer. A key finding: under-35 service consumers research extraordinarily hard and wide: for instance, young, returning servicers report they were impacted by resources like online reviews, store websites, daily deal sites and mobile 'mapping' the closest stores, at rates two to four times higher than those over 35.

"Our new study indicates that, with digital channels multiplying, the way consumers find, select, and choose to return to service businesses, has never been so complex and fragmented. Service providers that want to attract and retain customers - and want to have a prayer with the hard-researching, all-media-hungry next generation - need a digital service marketing attack plan with an unprecedented number of touch-points: whether 'getting found' at Google or 'getting heard' at Yelp," said Doug Van Sach, DMEautomotive's Vice President, Strategy and Analytics. "Service providers, and dealers in particular, are simply not doing enough to meet these new realities."

Key Findings:

Impacting First-Time Customers: For Dealers, Search is #1 - The survey gauged which resources most impacted first-time dealership and aftermarket customers[1] in finding and choosing their current store.[2] For dealers, 'online search' ranked #1 (29%), followed by 'drove/passed by' (28%) and 'family/friends recommendation' (17%) – outpacing all other media. For aftermarket chain stores 'drove by' ranked #1 (37%), trailed by 'online search' (22%) and 'TV commercials' (20%).

New Digital Deal Breaker: No Online Appointments - The survey identified how today's service customer prefers to set appointments:


Under 35

Overall

Phone call          

51%

62%

Online (phone/tablet/computer)       

32%

20%

In person                          

17%

17%

A preference for online appointments (made via smartphones, tablets and computers) trumps in-person appointment setting. And if, overall, 1 in 5 servicers now prefer online appointments, 1 in 3 under age 35 do. Another eye-opening finding: 16% of all servicers (up from 13% in 2012) – and 26% of those under age 35 – report they will now ONLY visit service centers where online appointments are available, meaning dealerships that don't enable easy, online appointment scheduling across all devices will increasingly lose business.

Key media's impact on first-time customers: dealers vs. aftermarket chains





Dealer 

Aftermarket    

Search                                    

29%

22%

TV commercial                            

13%

20%

Newspaper/circular ad         

13%

15%

Emailed ads/offers                  

12%

8%

Mailed ads/offers                         

11%

19%

Web ad while searching service      

10%

12%

Mapped closest stores on mobile      

8%

9%

Local coupon mag/bulk coupon mailer 

8%

17%

Radio Ads                                     

8%

12%

Online Reviews                             

5%

12%

Daily Deals                      

4%

12%

One striking finding: only 5% of first-time dealership service customers found/selected that dealership because of online reviews, suggesting either a less visible and/or less positive online reputation for the typical dealership service department. Also of note: the under-35 first-time customer reported a significantly higher level of usage/impact for every traditional or digital media than those over 35. For instance, 26% of those under 35 cited online/mobile search as a key store selection tool, vs. 17% of the over-35.

Impacting Returning Customers: The survey also measured the forces that most impact service customers to return to a store (with respondents rating which factors were most or somewhat influential). The top 3: 1) previous service experience (85%), 2) previous parts/accessories purchase (50%), and 3) family/friend recommendations (43%). And drilling down specifically to the media/communications methods most impacting return servicers shines a bright light on how research- and communications-hungry the youngest service consumer is.

Key Media: Impact on Returning Customers & the Age Story


Under 35       

Over 35

Email coupon/offer           

39%

29%

Loyalty Program              

37%

21%

Mailed coupon/offer               

36%

27%

Mobile-mapped closest stores   

34%

12%

Store/dealer website               

33%

17%

Online reviews                       

32%

10%

Local coupon mag/bulk coupon mailer             

29%

16%

Online search for nearby stores  

28%

11%

Newspaper/circular ads        

26%

13%

Web ads                            

24%

9%

Radios ads                         

24%

8%

Daily Deals           

23%

9%

TV commercials                 

23%

10%

While the top two marketing methods impacting returning customers were emailed and mailed offers/coupons, again no single channel dominates. Also note how traditional advertising approaches rank lowest, while the highest-impacting methods are those most realistic for dealerships: email/mail offers, a loyalty program, direct mail, getting 'found' on mobile maps, a website and online reviews.

Physical Sources of Vehicle Service Info (Like Owner's Manuals) Take Major Dive
Further evidence of the digital service shift: the dramatic, rapid decline in car owners turning to physical sources of vehicle maintenance info. Note the precipitous drop especially for the owner's manual (now only used by 51% overall, and 41% of those under 35) and service centers (26%).


2011

2013

Under 35 (2013)  

Owner's manual                 

61%

51%

41%

Family/friends                

42%

37%

49%

Service centers                  

43%

26%

31%

Meanwhile, service/maintenance info-seekers are now turning to a wide spread of online resources. And again, the data shows that under-35 servicers are consuming online maintenance info at rates 2-4 times higher than those over 35.


Under 35

Overall 

Online videos                       

22%

12%

OEM websites                       

22%

19%

Auto review 3rd p websites       

20%

13%

Online message boards

19%

10%

Store/dealer sites             

18%

12%

Another Digital Deal Breaker: No Upfront, Online Price Quotes: If consumers have come to expect price transparency on the sales front, that demand is now migrating into service. Seventeen percent overall (up from 14% in 2012) - and a significant 27% of those under 35 – report they would NOT CONSIDER a service center that didn't provide upfront price quotes for parts and labor – either online or by email.

"The way consumers select, and ultimately choose to return to, service providers – and the expectations for the whole auto service experience - are undergoing a powerful, relentless digital and mobile shift," concluded Van Sach. "It's never been more complex and competitive for dealers to reach and retain servicers (especially Millennials), but they really must adopt a 'digital-365' plan or they will continue to bleed market share to the aftermarket."

[1] Aftermarket stores studied include the large chains and department stores and wholesale clubs, and excluded smaller independent mechanics and paint and collision shops.

[2] Respondents selected all that applied.

About DMEautomotive

DMEautomotive (DMEa) is the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing, and provides turnkey marketing to the largest and most innovative automotive organizations, from automobile dealerships to many of the largest aftermarket companies in the U.S. DMEa's uniquely panoramic view of the complete automotive sales and service market, combined with its cutting-edge, science-based marketing programs, increases customer yield, conversion and retention. 

DMEa does not take marketing performance on faith, and each product and service is measured by a simple, precise scientific approach: Is it true? Prove it. Will it work? Test it. Does it generate results? Show it! Supported by DMEa's proprietary, cloud-based Red Rocket Technology Platform, the DMEa product suite includes science-based, data driven, multi-channel customer acquisition and retention marketing programs; best-in-class campaign reporting; data management and analytics; auto-focused Customer Interaction Center solutions, and complete on-site mail and email fulfillment services. Headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida, DMEa also has major operations in Jacksonville, Florida. 

 

SOURCE DMEautomotive

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