Motor industry stalls when it comes to revving up car buyers online

12 Apr 2012

The global motoring industry – despite spending a fortune on online marketing and social media – is failing the test consistently when it comes to serving online consumers, resulting in disappointing online sales experiences for potential car buyers and missed sales opportunities.

For the last three years, BearingPoint has conducted a survey to test how effectively major car brands respond to online test drive requests.

This year’s survey shows brands have not improved their lead management processes, leaving 59pc of test drive requests unanswered within four days – and 50pc not contacted at all (no response within the 14-day period of the survey).

The survey revealed that, despite the fragile economic recovery, there is still universal failure to act upon online test drive requests. It raises questions over the ability of manufacturers to maintain or grow their market share against a market background of weak demand across Europe and increasing customer expectations with respect to brand responsiveness.

The pan-European survey covered 19 brands in six countries and involved researchers attempting to make more than 2,200 test drive requests via car brand websites. The survey included traditional and emerging high-volume markets and brands right across the price spectrum.

The survey gave brands up to 14 days to respond (to enable comparison between previous years’ findings.) The expectation of consumers is far higher – with internet shoppers experiencing same or next-day response from other industries.

“While these findings relate to the automotive industry, there are lessons here for all sectors,” Peter Minogue, managing partner, BearingPoint Ireland, explained.

“Irish businesses that fail to keep pace with social media and online opportunities risk sacrificing valuable and hard-earned sales.”

Car makers grinding the gears on digital business

“When you consider the increasing importance of digital channels in the sales cycle and that, on average, one in three to four test drives result in a sale, it is very concerning that the automotive industry isn’t addressing this inherent weakness in their lead management process,” added James Rodger, automotive partner at BearingPoint.

“The consistent message of this survey over the past three years is that all car manufacturers, whether volume or premium brands, are missing the opportunity to convert leads generated from their websites.

“As digital channels become, for many, an integral part of the buying process, the automotive industry must address this issue and, based on our research, there is definitely a first-mover advantage in doing so. Manufacturers need to take a more holistic approach to lead management embracing their systems, processes and channels to ensure a seamless and efficient experience for prospective car buyers.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years