Carfluent recently debuted chatbot Tory to interact with Spanish-speaking consumers.  -  IMAGE: Carfluent

Carfluent recently debuted chatbot Tory to interact with Spanish-speaking consumers.

IMAGE: Carfluent

The U.S. Hispanic consumer population has quadrupled over the past 40 years, making it the fastest-growing demographic group, according to 2023 Nielsen Consumer report, “Diverse Voices: The Evolving Hispanic Consumer.” 

With this large and growing demographic comes significant buying power, which the report estimates will reach $2.4 trillion by the end of 2024.

Many of those consumers speak Spanish, which the U.S. Census Bureau reports is the second most spoken language in the states. In fact, it says that over 42 million people ages 5 or older speak Spanish at home.

What’s more, the demographic represents 24% of all car sales and could eventually exceed non-Hispanics in lifetime car purchases, according to Marketing Daily.

Justin Neiser, chief experience officer of Software as a Service solutions provider Carfluent, shares the statistics to point to a need for Spanish-speaking translations on automotive retail websites.

Carfluent CEO Chance Mayfield says many auto dealer websites translated for Spanish-speaking customers are often inadequate.  -  IMAGE: Carfluent

Carfluent CEO Chance Mayfield says many auto dealer websites translated for Spanish-speaking customers are often inadequate.

IMAGE: Carfluent

Despite the obvious need, Carfluent CEO Chance Mayfield laments that automotive retail sites neglect Spanish-speaking consumers. He says most dealership websites are in English and that many with Spanish translations are often inadequate, a disparity that translates into missed opportunities.

“Dealers can have all the inventory, TV and radio ads in the world, but if the end-user cannot engage with the inventory on their websites, how serious are they about selling cars to Spanish speakers?” Mayfield says. “If you are going to be serious about selling cars to Spanish speakers, you must understand that data is just as important to them as it is to English-speaking customers.”

The Need for Change

Dealers and manufacturers have wrestled with accommodating Spanish speakers for some time. However, according to Mayfield, their initiatives to target Spanish speakers have fallen short of what’s needed.

Typically, the first strategy is to offer a credit application that can be filled out online or the option to call and talk to a Spanish-speaking representative for help at the dealership level.

“Beaver Toyota is probably the best in the business for doing that,” Mayfield says. “They’ve got a bilingual team and an outreach marketing campaign for Spanish speakers. When a Spanish speaker calls, the person who answers is bilingual.”

However, that strategy typically comes into play after a Spanish-speaking consumer has decided to buy. It also doesn’t enable consumers to browse inventory on the website. “To me, allowing the user to actually shop for inventory on the website is the lowest hanging fruit for all dealers,” Mayfield says.

Many dealerships have also turned to rudimentary solutions, such as Google Translate, to translate text, documents and websites. However, Mayfield says those solutions focus on the page level and only partially translate web copy.

He explains that most sites have vehicle details pages that pull in a JavaScript from an iframe and use an Application Programming Interface for incentives. Google Translate, he says, is unable to read fluid, dynamic information that constantly updates. As a result, the system doesn’t fully translate pertinent vehicle information, creating a significant language barrier.

“Dealers have also turned to manual translations done by a dedicated team to update English copy on their sites,” he says. “As you can imagine, turnaround time is not great. It is also not the most cost-effective way for a dealership to market to Spanish speakers.”

Besides, that option hasn’t been producing conversions, he says.

Mayfield underscores that delivering a positive experience for Spanish-speaking customers starts with a bilingual website. Adding Spanish-speaking sales and finance-and-insurance personnel must follow to aid seamless communication with Spanish speakers during the car-buying process.

Tech That Leverages AI

Carfluent, seeing the gaps, moved to go beyond basic translations and seamlessly integrate with a dealership's inventory and procedures. According to Mayfield, the first step in creating a reliable translator solution was tackling the data issue and empowering dealers to target Spanish-speaking customers with their inventories.

“This has always been the biggest hiccup in the process,” he says. “But addressing the data first would allow Spanish speakers to actually engage with inventory online and read vehicle specs. You know the basics. I mean, if you cannot read about a new iPhone online, you’re probably not going to buy it. The same goes for cars.”

The first issue to resolve was translating the manufacturer's information being piped in from behind the page level. “The tools being used for automotive retail websites are data-driven platforms,” Mayfield says. “But if you don’t account for data before pumping it into a platform, you’re going to create a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t work as intended.”

Such a solution can lead to incomplete translations, where, for example, the main features section in the vehicle description might be translated into Spanish while the finer-detail features listed below it, such as navigation system and upholstery, remain in English.

Carfluent aimed to gather data directly from OEMs and translate it with its artificial intelligence system. “Our solution is ground up. We are not trying to put a square peg into a round hole.”

The resulting solution is tailored to the automotive industry using data and contextual translation. By training its AI to understand automotive terms and OEM-specific terminology, Carfluent says it ensures authentic, accurate translations of inventory details.

The system also performs contextual, OEM-specific translations. For example, it translates Ford’s unique color codes and specific car models. A lot of AI systems are unfamiliar with OEM-specific, proprietary or trademark terms, according to Mayfield.

“It also understands the context of someone shopping for a car,” Mayfield says. “It knows that if someone is shopping for a car, they will use certain terminology and language.”

However, Carfluent says it doesn’t blindly rely on its AI system for translations but also employs a bilingual team to review data and make adjustments.

“Still, the primary advantage is that our AI is centered on automotive,” he says. “We’re not working in several markets. We are translating data to Spanish contextually so that the sentence means the same thing that it meant in English and the same thing it means to the OEM.”

What is Carfluent?

Carfluent is easy to install and integrates with existing customer relations management systems, according to Mayfield, who says that getting everything up and running, including obtaining inventory information from the dealer or OEM, usually takes a couple of weeks.

The entry-level product starts at $269 a month for a single store with up to 200 autos in inventory. The standard product is $499 a month per store for inventories of up to 500 autos. There is also a custom product and pricing for larger auto groups.

“Around 90% of our dealers purchase the standard plan,” Mayfield says. “That plan is going to be the best fit for most dealerships. We have enterprise products for larger groups with five or six locations.”

The tool integrates into dealership systems and lives on a subdomain of their websites. It’s billed as minimizing disruptions to dealership operations while maximizing the potential for reaching Spanish-speaking customers by not adding additional steps to the existing store process.

“Usually, dealers create a Spanish-specific phone tree or a Spanish-specific round robin within the CRM. We are happy to customize the software to their processes,” Mayfield says. “Think of Carfluent as a website that receives outreach from the consumer but drives Spanish users through digital marketing efforts.”

Maintaining the bilingual portion of the site is also a seamless process, Neiser says “As soon as dealer updates their inventory, the Carfluent pages get updated. It is completely hands-off.”

The software’s reporting function lets internet sales managers or general managers check daily analytics. “When we install the software, we include whatever tracking system and metrics they're currently working with,” Mayfield says. “Carfluent also tracks every phone call, every email, every lead.”

Impacts on Conversion

The impact on conversion has been remarkable when dealerships add Carfluent, says Neiser.

“Our dealers are experiencing a 12% conversion rate compared to the industry average of 1.5%, marking an 8-times improvement,” he says.

Company Chief Experience Officer Justin Neiser says translations build trust between consumers and dealers.  -  IMAGE: Carfluent

Company Chief Experience Officer Justin Neiser says translations build trust between consumers and dealers.

IMAGE: Carfluent

Texas-based Glenn Polk Auto Group has had success with the new tool, according to Neiser. Before adding Carfluent, a bilingual staff worked with consumers in the store, but it sought a better means of connecting with Spanish-speaking consumers online.

“By adding Carfluent, they were able to put faces with names and build trust with Spanish speakers online in a way that they hadn’t been able to before,” Neiser says, who points out that the group also saw a 30% to 40% increase in conversion rates.

The Future

Carfluent has launched new products to cater to dealers’ needs, according to Mayfield.

“We are always learning and growing through dealership feedback.”

The company’s most recent addition is bilingual chatbot Tory that guides Spanish-speaking consumers in just three clicks and under five seconds, according to the company. All the consumer has to do is tell it what he or she is looking for.

“Tory is the fastest way for a dealer to connect with a Spanish-speaking customer,” Mayfield says.

“She basically funnels people to their vehicle directly from the dealer's home page.”

The language assistant is easily added to dealership websites. “Tory is free for all customers on our Standard Subscription plan,” Mayfield adds.

Besides Tory, Carfluent plans to add more languages. “The requests we get the most are for French and Cantonese,” Mayfield says. “We plan to release a French version by year’s end.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronnie Wendt is an editor at Auto Dealer Today.

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today

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