SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Only 16% of the 1,500 dealerships mystery-shopped by Digital Air Strike responded to internet leads within 15 minutes and 18% didn’t respond at all. The findings are part of the social media firm’s 2018 Mystery Shop Study, which was conducted over a four-month period and included leads submitted on a dealers’ websites and through Facebook’s Messenger app.
While the remaining 66% of dealers did respond to the test leads submitted, Digital Air Strike noted that industry best practices indicate that a customer is three times more likely to visit the dealership when a lead is responded to within 10 minutes.
“We wanted to get a better understanding of how dealers truly respond to leads,” said Alexi Venneri, co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike. “The results reveal a tremendous opportunity for dealerships and manufacturers to improve their lead responses, including increased use of Facebook Messenger combined with the power of Facebook Marketplace, and to leverage more engagement tools such as financing calculators, vehicle photos/video and after-hours quoting tools that can bridge the gaps we found in automotive consumer interactions.”
As part of its mystery-shop, the social media firm sent tested dealers a specific vehicle request that included questions that required specific answers. The top dealership ranked by OEM that responded with the information requested and did so within 15 minutes included Fiat at 34%; Toyota at 20%; Mercedes at 18%; Ford at 17%; and BMW at 16%. The average time across all stores and all OEMs to respond to a lead was more than 24 hours, with some dealers taking up to four days to respond. Additionally, only 36% of dealers shopped responded to requests submitted afterhours.
“This potentially represents lost business as multiple manufacturers have stated that up to 40% of all consumer leads are submitted when dealerships are closed,” the firm noted in its press release. “Consumers are shopping after work when no one is at the dealership to respond; however, there are innovative tools that can provide intelligent responses to consumers even after hours.”
The mystery-shop also revealed that 64% of dealerships didn’t respond to leads on Facebook Messenger, which 1.3 billion consumers use as a direct line to reach business. Making that connection even more relevant is Facebook Marketplace, which allows pre-owned vehicle inventory to automatically be showcased to consumers closest to dealerships.
“Whether it is a lack of knowledge or ability to leverage this powerful tool, many dealers are missing sales if they don’t respond to consumers on Facebook,” the firm noted. “Consumer use of Facebook Messenger is exploding and, according to Facebook, “autos” is one of the most popular categories on Facebook Marketplace with millions of Americans looking at vehicles each day.”
According to study results, only 25% of dealerships provided pre-owned vehicle options, and only 15% provided additional new-vehicle options. That means that 85% of dealerships are missing the opportunity to give customers options that may be better suited to their budgets.
“According to multiple industry sources, up to 45% of all consumers end up purchasing a different vehicle than the one they originally inquire about, so providing multiple vehicle choices in a response to a consumer has been shown to increase the chances of closing a deal with that consumer,” Digital Air Strike noted.
Additionally, 53% of dealerships shopped by the social media firm did not respond with a price or any vehicle information despite requests for that information. And only 31% of those that did provided included lease and rebate information.
As for content included in dealers’ responses, only 19% included vehicle photos and only 1% included video in their response. The firm pointed to findings in its sixth annual Automotive Social Media Trends Study as evidence that content does matter, with 48% of car buyers saying a faster and more detailed response that includes actual vehicle photos and video would make them buy from one dealership over another.