The willy-nilly shopping patterns of online car shoppers make it crucial for dealers to respond within five minutes to questions and requests for contact, according to new research by a dealer consulting firm.
Online shoppers who request contact from a dealer are three times more likely to come to the showroom if they get a response within five minutes than if they wait 10 minutes or longer, according to dealer consultant OnlineDrive.
The OnlineDrive study showed that 91 percent of people are still at their computer if they are contacted within five minutes, OnlineDrive CEO Larry Bruce told an audience last month at the Digital Dealer 15 Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas.
Interviewed last week, Bruce said the dealer who can get right back to the interested shopper "effectively interrupts the shopping process," and six times out of 10 can get the customer to come into the store.
Alternately, only two of 10 people who submit an online lead or ask to be contacted eventually will come to the dealership if they are contacted within 10 minutes or later, Bruce said. That's because the shopper has moved on, often to a competitor.
"It's an ADD world," Bruce said.
Another study, by AutoTrader.com, provides insight into the spontaneous nature of online vehicle shopping.
The study, which featured diaries kept by 2,500 new- and used-car shoppers, found that three of every four shopping sessions occurred spontaneously, when time and opportunity allowed.
And the bulk of shopping took place at home, whether the shopper was using a personal computer, smartphone or tablet, said Isabelle Helms, senior director of research and marketing analytics at AutoTrader.
About one-third of the time they shopped because they found time, Helms said. TV commercials and seeing interesting vehicles on the street were the other main reasons for shopping, he said.
Helms said a key takeaway for dealers is that they need to provide a high-quality online shopping experience across all "screens" whether PC and laptop or smartphone and tablet.
The study showed that 30 percent of respondents believed a dealer's failure to provide a Web site formatted for tablets negatively reflected on the vehicle brand. Thirty-eight percent of mobile users held the same opinion about Web sites not modified for smartphones.