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Use response method that online shoppers request: Polk study

November 16, 2010

A dealership’s responsiveness to online shopper inquiries significantly impacts vehicle purchase decisions, contends a study to be released in April by R. L. Polk & Co.


Simply initiating a response is not enough to build customer loyalty, the study concluded. Rather, dealers must respond as consumers request, factoring in content, speed and method of response, in order to increase the chance of selling a vehicle.


Polk said that 47 percent of consumers who want an e-mail response consider 10 to 24 hours as an acceptable turnaround time. Conversely, two-thirds of consumers with phone preferences expected to be contacted within one hour.


"Paying attention to the method of response is critical to the success of a dealer’s online leads. Customers want to do business with dealers who listen to them," said Polk’s Lonnie Miller.


Polk’s study, which examined the online shopping experience of more than 570 new-vehicle buyers, shows that 70 percent of those who purchased from a responding dealer were contacted by their preferred communication method. Overall, 68 percent of consumers who received a response purchased from the responding dealer.


According to Polk, consumers are most interested in vehicle availability and price. But getting the lowest price for a vehicle is not the single most important determinant for most consumers. Rather, buyers are willing to pay a competitive price for a vehicle.


"Dealers can establish loyalty by improving response time and pricing information," Miller said. "If a dealer is not already including price information in (his) response, (he) should begin doing so immediately.


Dealers also should consider the significance of the first-time buyer audience as they evaluate Internet inquiries, because brand loyalty begins with this group.