The Ugly Truth About Mobile Apps in the Automotive Industry

September 25th, 2013

The following is a true story…

I was recently told my by one of my dealers that a “consultant” informed him, “mobile apps don’t work…no one gets downloads.”

Now I’m sure he is a good consultant and that he has probably done a good job for this dealer….because the dealer “trusts” his judgment.

But my first thoughts were…how can he say that! Mobile apps are predicted to be a $27 billion industry in 2013! Retail giants like Home Depot, McDonalds, Walmart, and Starbucks are making mobile apps a center piece of their growth strategy.

But on second thought…if you don’t have an app that’s actively supported by your app developer and backed by industry-leading best practices, then you might be right!

It’s absolutely mandatory to find an app developer that supports you with a best practice download plan and an account management team that provides you with weekly progress meetings and analytics.

You may also want to choose a developer that offers a lifecycle customer journey, giving your app the steroids it needs to attract and engage with your dealership customers, increasing revenue and customer loyalty.

Mobile technology is the FASTEST technology in HISTORY! It is a marketing channel that you cannot ignore. Apps are present in your neighborhood and people ARE downloading. Those dealers who adopt this channel early will win the market share.

Go here to learn more about how mobile apps are driving dealer success.

Are you running a mobile app in your store? Please share your success stories on this thread.

-          Susie Peeler, Director, Mobile App Sales, DMEautomotive

1987 Called and It Wants Its Service Marketing Back

September 16th, 2013

The auto industry is experiencing dramatic changes that are completely reshaping the way you need to do business. Consumers have created a new reality as they are driving fewer miles, keeping their vehicles around longer, researching more before they purchase (both vehicles AND service) and communicating on their schedule – not yours. But the alarming truth is that these changes have added up to the trend of increased service intervals, growing over the past 12 months from an average of 140 days between service visits to 145 days.

This mere 5-day increase actually costs you thousands and thousands of dollars each year in lost service revenue – nearly $91,000 per year to be exact – that means $18,000 per service day lost.

Most service marketing programs are based on the best thinking of 1987 – marketing to the vehicle service interval! But it’s time to ditch the best marketing of 1987 and invest in new era marketing strategies that are completely built around the latest industry research, changing consumer behaviors and today’s modern realities. Bring the power of total customer retention to your dealership and destroy the threat of today’s increasing service interval.

Total customer retention is built on 5 key pillars: direct behavioral targeting of your customers, a fully formed marketing strategy including digital and complete mobile marketing capabilities, mid-interval communications, loyalty and prepaid maintenance programs. Each pillar is strategically designed to pinpoint and contact customers at critical transition points, convert sales customers to service customers and to then transition those customers into a full-scale service retention program – keeping them coming back to your sales and service drive, recapturing all of your lost service interval days – and then some.

Direct behavior targeting of customers allows you to communicate using the right language, the right selling points and the right offers to get loyal customers, swing loyal customers and disloyal customers to come into your store, maximizing their spend and minimizing your cost. When your customers are all so different, why would you speak to them the same way, with the same offers? Direct behavioral targeting helps you speak to each customer in the way they want, yielding efficient customer response.

A fully digital and mobile marketing strategy is an absolute MUST in today’s technology based world. Mobile apps, web, and email abilities and the prudent use of texting will carry the continuous customer conversation. Using new technologies like Responsive Email Design, you can provide customers with straightforward call to actions that speaks directly to their needs and desires.

And with today’s increasing service intervals, it’s important to incorporate mid interval communications into your total customer retention strategy, pulling customers back into your service drive more frequently and purchasing high margin items like brakes, tires and batteries. Perfect timing is the key; know when consumers need brakes, tires and batteries, then market to those customers to get them back into your store before their next service interval.

Did you know that 70% of all service dollars are obtained from the top 20% of your customer base? You can’t afford to lose these loyal customers. Implementing loyalty programs that focus on retaining and building your group of loyal customers must be a primary focus in your total customer retention strategy.

Prepaid maintenance programs are also essential retention tools to build loyalty and total customer retention. Your marketing lifecycle needs to market different to prepaid maintenance customers than to your other customers and it’s crucial to keep them coming back to your dealership for all of their prepaid services (and also every other service) – because 56% of those PPM customers are likely to continue servicing at your store even after their plan expires!

Take back your service intervals with a total customer retention plan that’s based on the new era of automotive marketing.

Today’s Smarter Automotive Industry Thrives on New Truth Marketing

July 31st, 2013

With coordinated multi channel communications like direct mail, email, text, phone call campaigns and mobile apps, dealers are able to break through the clutter and quickly grab the attention of the customer. But too often the strategy behind these communications is based on broken and outdated ideologies that focus on the car and not the owner, causing dealers to aim the wrong message at the wrong target customer.

This broken marketing approach is geared toward the service interval of the car and it’s spraying out messages that have little to do with the customer. Techniques of blindly firing off messages across multiple channels of communication, and hoping they stick, are outdated as these channels have been completely transformed by technology and higher customer expectations with ever decreasing attention spans. And millions of dealer dollars are being wasted on this Old Truth marketing, as direct service and sales marketing are delivered the same “spray and pray” way they’ve always been – largely unsupported by data and research.

That means dealers are communicating to the wrong consumers in the wrong channels with the wrong offer and at wrong intervals, neglecting to face the automotive industry’s current realities – realities that have completely changed the way dealers must market and communicate to the new automotive customer.

Here are some of the automotive industry’s current and alarming realities: 1) A growing age of vehicles on the road. 2) An increasing maintenance interval. 3) Improved vehicle manufacture quality. 4) Changes in consumer behavior and attitudes and 5) the continuing revolution of digital and mobile technology.

Based on these five realities, dealers need to re think marketing and adopt the New Truth – investing in new marketing science, new techniques and new technology – all founded on new research, tailored to the consumer’s behavior and attitude. It’s time to capitalize on the small fraction of time that dealers now have to target customers.

So where does a dealer start when abandoning the Old Truth and grabbing hold of the New Truth? It’s vital that dealers begin to integrate new technology and digital channels such as Responsive Email Design, mobile apps, QR codes, texting and Passbook to effectively communicate with consumers. Mid Interval Communications for battery, brakes and tires will help the dealer keep their customers coming back while Pre Paid Maintenance programs also give the customer a great opportunity to increase customer loyalty and retention, especially millennial customers. And hyper-targeting customers will allow the dealer to communicate to the right customers at the right time via the right channel.

This is a new, smarter automotive industry where not just any professional can play the game. It takes deep science, strategy and research with precision execution to thrive in the new digital marketing age. Today’s challenge lies in making the shift to New Truth marketing, centering your strategies around your customer, what they want, how they behave, where they spend and how they spend, and put an end to ineffective and expendable direct vehicle marketing.

Responsive Email Design Part 2: Show Me the Results

July 15th, 2013

Responsive Email Design is a critical part of any complete, forward thinking mobile strategy. As we discussed last time in Responsive Email Design Answers to Mobile, Responsive Email Design uses new techniques in coding to automatically reformat your email content in an optimal layout for whatever device your customer is using to read that email, regardless if it’s being read on a desktop, tablet or mobile device. By automatically optimizing email content for a specific call to action, this type of design delivers a compelling reading experience for the viewer, evoking more response, more action and more ROI.

One of the nation’s largest dealer groups implemented Responsive Email Design in April 2013 and in just one month they experienced an open rate increase of 6.7 percent, as well as a click-through rate increase of 1.2 percent across all devices. But it is the specific call to actions that proved to be most actionable by the consumer.

Before Responsive Email Design, call to actions such as ‘Call to Schedule,’  ‘Schedule Service Online’ and ‘Maps and Directions’ were nearly impossible to locate and even more difficult to select on a mobile device with the inherent “small screen/fat finger” problem. Now these action buttons are not only placed front and center on a mobile device, but allow functions like one tap dialing to ensure quick and direct interactions, getting the consumer where they want to be, faster. With one tap direct dialing, the same dealer experienced hundreds of additional phone calls, an 18 percent increase of service appointments scheduled online, and further engaged users through the ‘Maps and Directions’ call to action, bringing in more business to the service drive – all in just one month!

It’s vital that the dealer understands how to engage with customers in this new environment in order to deliver a compelling and actionable message. With Responsive Email Design, the dealer is able to direct consumer behavior, driving traffic to a preferred destination.

Applying pro-mobile channels, such as Responsive Email Design, to the dealer mobile strategy will be what sets the forward moving dealer apart from the stagnant. With consumers creating a more competitive environment than ever before, and innovations in mobile happening at breakneck speed, dealers need to establish marketing and content that is flexible enough to accommodate change.

Combining mobile channels such as Responsive Email Design, the mobile app, mobile websites, mobile search and texting will set up a successful mobile strategy that targets the on-the-go consumer.

Service Apps: The Auto Retail App

June 20th, 2013

Ask some dealers about mobile apps and they’ll talk to you about  ‘Angry Birds’ or ‘Words With Friends’.  Other dealers agree that there’s some shopping going on with mobile apps, mostly through E-Tailers like or Groupon. But in actuality, it’s the traditional brick and mortar retailers who are changing the entire landscape of mobile app operation.

Traditional brick and mortar retailers like dealerships, Home Depot, and Macy’s may not have been the first to seize mobile app adoption, but now they’re not only seizing it, they’re shaking it by the throat. In just one year, from December 2011 to December 2012, consumer time spent in retailer apps (versus E-Tailer, daily deal, and other shopping apps) has exploded by 525 percent, according to Flurry Analytics.

Retailers are joining the mobile app revolution in droves and have located a gold mine with in the tectonic shift of online meeting offline shopping, through mobile apps.

E-Tailers (like Amazon and eBay) paved the road, offering the consumer an always-on shopping experience, but retailers (like Walmart and Staples) have perfected it, combining the search and purchase process online with the instant gratification of same day delivery or pick up offline at a near by store location.

“The enormous growth in retailer app share has come largely at the expense of Daily Deals, down in share from 20% in 2011 to 13% in 2012, and Online Marketplace apps, which contracted from 25% in 2011 to 20% in 2012,” reports Flurry.

Retailers have done it; they’ve brought us even closer to the customer than the E-Tailer, eliminating the factor of time. Talk about taking advantage of an always on – always connected audience!

So how do retail apps relate to your dealership, you ask? The future of automotive retail is found in the mobile app. Because it is always with you, always on, always connected, the consumer is empowered to purchase automotive-related goods and services wherever the customer happens to be at the time, often on impulse.

Service is a dealer’s profit lifeline, and a smart dealer app can become the best service-appointment-driving and retention weapon a dealer has ever used.

A dealership app can help people manage their car (likely the second-largest purchase of their life), whether it’s helping them keep track of (and book service for) their entire “family fleet,” or using a suite of useful tools that make their everyday “car and driving life” easier.

Forty nine percent of a dealership’s service customers now use mobile apps, and two in three of a dealership’s current service customers are turning to mobile apps daily, but only 13% have an app from a dealership or auto service provider, according to a DMEautomotive consumer survey.

With this roughly 4:1 consumer behavior disconnect, dealerships that embrace an app now will grab the early advantage.

Dealers need to build now for the future. They need to get a great app. They need to start driving thousands of downloads. They need to focus on designing new, in-store processes for the mobile customer. So, in a year from now they’ll have an app that creates incredible value for their customers and a receptive new database of always-connected owners to which they can market.

To learn more about the benefits of running a mobile app in your store go to and download a free copy of The Pocket Revolution: The Complete Guide to a Killer Mobile App, or purchase one online at



There’s No Need to Fight – Customers Want Mobile Apps from Both OEMs and Dealers

June 11th, 2013

Dealers and OEMs alike have embraced the overwhelming consumer demand for mobile apps – making apps an important part of their respective retention, communication, marketing, and sales efforts. But does the market need a mobile app from both parties? Isn’t one app either from the dealer, or from the OEM all that’s needed by the customer? The truth is there’s actually a certain need for both OEM and dealer branded mobile apps in the market.

So let’s start with why this is true. On average consumers have 67 apps on their smartphone, up 209% since 2011. This demonstrates a growing consumer appetite to have multiple apps on their device, each being the right tool for a very specific job – it’s not a one app fits all scenario.

OEMs need an app to promote their brand and add functional value to their vehicles, gaining and retaining brand loyal customers. They interact with the vehicle in nearly magical ways with API integration, as well as offer OEM provided services like 24 hour roadside assistance, substantially improving the ownership experience. But, for all the good the OEM app does in improving the ownership experience, enriching the relationship between a dealer and their customer is not the mission of the OEM app. For example, an OEM app will typically show the consumer in need of service all nearby dealerships, regardless of where the consumer bought or services their vehicle.

Dealers need an app that focuses on their specific business needs, expanding the customer relationship in new and profitable ways – improving customer retention, reminding them that service is needed for their car, that the dealer’s store is nearby and that the dealer is even offering coupons and discounts to service or buy at their store!

A dealership app must focus on bringing every day value to the customer through features and tools that make the relationship with the dealer super easy for the customer, like real time vehicle is ready for pick up notifications. These features will keep the customer coming back to the app – but more importantly to the dealership.

OEM and dealer apps simply serve different purposes.

And there are some really cool “next wave” features coming that will continue to make the dealership app an indispensable customer service and retention tool. Dealers, make sure to talk to your app vendor to make sure these features are included on your product roadmap.

The technology to better “socialize” dealer branded apps for the customer is rapidly becoming available, allowing app providers to add functions like Apple Passbook integration for storage of the dealer’s coupons and discounts, enabling “Chat” to talk live with the dealer’s customer service representative, and even geo-fencing to allow location based services and notifications.

So while the “one app doesn’t fit all” statement remains true, the addition of third wave features in a dealer branded mobile app will continue to set the dealer app apart from the rest.


Responsive Email Design Answers to Mobile

May 7th, 2013

More people today use their smartphone for reading emails (79%) than for making phone calls (Adobe 2013 Digital Publishing Report), but because the email is designed for the desktop and not the mind blowing number of mobile devices available in today’s market, most emails make the reading experience on a mobile device next to impossible.

Forty-two percent of email opens now happen on a mobile device (Litmus) and U.S. consumers are heavily influenced by these messages, with 71 percent of mobile purchasing decisions influenced by emails from companies (Adobe 2013 Digital Publishing Report). So what’s an email marketer got to do to deliver a compelling email experience across such a wide variety of devices?

The answer is… use Responsive Email Design technology to create crazy powerful email campaigns, regardless of the device your customer is using to read your emails. Responsive Email Design uses sensing technology embedded in your email to recognize if the email is being read on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone, and then reformats the email on the fly, creating the best reading experience for that device.

Mobile consumers move fast and tap instead of click, and Responsive Design allows the dealer to focus mobile customers on the actions they want them to take (call us, visit us, forward to a friend, etc.) via large and easily tap-able buttons while still allowing desktop email client users the benefit of reading more copy and accessing more links. When viewed from a mobile device, the email will display a different image, adjust the size of both buttons and text as well as customize the content.

Simply scaling the email content to fit within the device won’t work, as scaled content on a tiny 4 inch screen is difficult to read and nearly impossible to tap with the inherent small screen – fat finger problem. It’s simple, if the content is too small to see on the consumer’s mobile device and not easy to tap, they won’t think twice about sending it straight to the trash.

And with 76 percent of companies already starting to optimize for mobile (Experian), Responsive Email Design is the next must-have function to survive in our digital world.


How to Measure Your App’s Success

April 12th, 2013

By: Mike Martinez, Chief Marketing Officer for DMEautomotive

So now your dealership’s launched an app, but you don’t know how to tell if it’s actually getting the results you want. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, follow these best practices from DMEautomotive’s groundbreaking eBook The Pocket Revolution: The Complete Guide to a Killer Mobile App to find out if your setting the right performance benchmarks when measuring your app’s success.

The number of downloads is the single most important initial metric when it comes to the measurement of your app’s success. This is because the goal out of the gate must be to build your database of users.

To start, set a reasonable annual downloads goal using this formula: take the number of VIN records in your DMS (this is your number of customers) and multiply it by .75 (the average dealership’s percentage of DMS/customer records that are “good” and actionable, according to DMEautomotive’s 2013 Strategy and Analytics Research). Multiply that figure by .67 (the average dealer’s number of “good” records in their DMS that have actually done business with them in the last 24 months). Now multiply that number by .40, as a current estimate for what percentage of your customers are app users with a smartphone (the percentage of dealer customers that use mobile apps is actually 49 percent, but lets use this number to err on the side of safety).

So what’s your answer? The resulting number is what your achievable, reasonable, targeted 12-month download objective should be. Break that number down even more to find out how many downloads you need to drive each day. The download targets will vary greatly according to the size of each store’s DMS, but according to DMEautomotive research, the average dealer needs to hit about 12 downloads a day over a year to be healthy.

Your next and equal focus should be on the number of customer accounts created in your app. Encourage each customer to establish an account, entering their personal and vehicle information upon download so they don’t have to enter this information every time they schedule service or submit a dealer inquiry. At least 50 percent of your customers who downloaded the app should establish a personal account.

The various metrics that reveal how, and with what intensity your customers are engaging with your app are also of utmost importance. Measure the amount of time spent per customer visit. Our research shows that a good benchmark would be a range of 10 – 24 minutes, and roughly four times more than time spent on your dealer website.

Measure the average pages viewed per visit. Successful dealer apps should drive an average of 10 -15 page views per app visit or roughly twice as many pages viewed than your dealer website. This is the part of the app that you must give them good reasons for coming back and for sticking around; otherwise your customers will fail to engage with your app.

What app areas are you customers engaging with the most? You want your vehicle management and inventory pages to stay in the top five because they’re critical to driving more business. And as far as repeat visitors, roughly 60 – 85 percent of your visitors should be returning users. Now of course in the first few months after you launch your app your percentage of new users will be nearly 100 percent, but after roughly three months, you want repeat visitors to make up at least 60 percent of total visits. Another great indicator of app success is how many times a month your customers turn to your app. Aim for an average of three to six visits per unique user, over a 90 day period.

Finally, you should be taking the time to constantly improve your app, and when the time comes to make an update you will want roughly 75 percent of original users to re-install the app upon update. If less than 67 percent of consumers re-install your app when that update notice pops up, it’s yet another sign your app is failing the use-value test, or that they were never properly shown how to use it.

And don’t forget, you must have patience because it typically takes a year for your customers to really build up “muscle memory” around the app, but if it’s built right and makes the consumer’s life easier, you can expect your data to reflect the retention you want.

Mike Martinez is Chief Marketing Officer of DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing that provides a range of marketing services to the biggest and most innovative automotive organizations in the industry. For more information, email

Best Practices: How To Survive the Cellpocalypse

March 20th, 2013

Best Practices for Surviving the Cellpocalypse

By: Mike Martinez, Chief Marketing Officer for DMEautomotive

Calls to mobile phones are highly regulated and with the Federal Communications Commission’s recent rule changes pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, dealers need to get serious about obtaining prior express written consent before October 16, 2013, to avoid the risk of losing the right to contact almost 45 percent of your customers!

Among the impacts of these new regulations is the effective prohibition of the use of technology (like your CRM system or calling technologies also used by your BDC provider) to call those mobile numbers without the express, written permission of the consumer. Most dealers don’t realize it, but with the rapid adoption by consumers of mobile phones as their primary phone number, 45% of the numbers in the “home phone” field of the average dealer’s DMS are actually mobile phone numbers.

So what’s the best way to survive this Cellpocalypse? Be proactive and devote an entire call campaign to the collection of express written consent. According to a recent DMEautomotive 500 record communication consent study, “Keep Calling,” 65 percent of customers contacted gave their consent for ongoing calls to their cell phones when asked. This could be the difference between a full or empty sales and service drive come next Christmas!

You can also dedicate email-marketing campaigns to educate your customers and ask for their consent as well. Link the email campaigns to a webpage where customers can provide prior express written consent. Make sure to clearly state the benefits they’ll receive in return for giving you their consent. Just be sure that you are keeping and maintaining records of your consents because the burden of proof is on YOU.

If you want to survive the coming Cellpocalypse you must start obtaining written consent NOW, or prepare to lose this vital channel of customer communication forever.

Mike Martinez is Chief Marketing Officer of DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing that provides a range of marketing services to the biggest and most innovative automotive organizations in the industry. For more information, email

*The information provided herein is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers should always obtain the advice of independent legal counsel related to their own specific and unique circumstances.


The Dawn of a New Loyalist: A NADA Recap

March 15th, 2013

This year’s NADA Convention & Expo offered an abundance of enlightening and informative seminars for guests to attend. However we know you couldn’t get to them all, and not everyone was able to attend the convention. So if you missed ‘5 Ways to Engage the Next Generation of Owners,’ we’ve got your back.

Here’s the groundbreaking and industry shifting news you need to know.

Today dealers face three challenges that have never occurred before:

As of July 2012, the average age of a vehicle on the road in the United States is 11 years old. People are training themselves to get more out of their vehicles and DMEautomotive’s consumer study confirms that an aging vehicle fleet favors the aftermarket, not you.

That brings us to the next challenge. The loyalty landscape is changing; consumers are flocking to the aftermarket for bread and butter services and roughly one in seven dealership loyalists is 65 years old or older. Think this is a small number? Think again: these customers are now poised to leave the market, and the loss of just the over-65 loyal customers represents an industry hit of $3.4 billion.

However, the aftermarket loyal customer age demographic is the polar opposite of a dealership’s, with 18 to 54 year olds being aftermarket loyalists. That means it’s time for dealerships to refocus their efforts to capture not only the customers that are bleeding to the aftermarket, but also the next generation of owners who are already loyal to the competitor (prior to entering their prime spending years).

It’s the dawn of the new dealer loyalist. The next generation of owners shop differently, behave differently and value very different things.

So how do dealers combat these never before seen challenges and most of all – engage this next generation of vehicle owners?

Use Prepaid Maintenance Plans. Offer several packages on new, and used vehicles and back in service to attract and retain millennial consumers.

The next generation wants to interact with you via Online Service Scheduling, so offer it! And not only via website, but also through mobile websites and mobile apps. Don’t forget the next generation runs on mobile!

Get a loyalty program! Promote the loyalty program as part of the car buying and service experience. Use signage in all departments and make sure your loyalty program is highlighted on all your communications to your customers. And most importantly teach your team how to discuss your loyalty program with every customer.

Make sure to have a Targeted Service Marketing strategy and a customizable automated service reminder program with relevant content based on personal driving habits and vehicle type. Don’t use email blasts as a way to save money on marketing. Think small list, with increased relevant content and you will get a higher return and increased email interaction. Set a budget for service conquest and create a universe to target. Rotate through the target with unique offers.

Finally, get to know your competitor – the aftermarket! Enhance your understanding of their marketing strategy, what do their pieces look like, what services do they promote, how often do they send communications? After you’ve experienced it, have your advisors do it. Let them experience how well trained your competitors are.

Remember the aftermarket is where the next generation already hangs out. Always fine tune what you’re good at, but also mirror what the aftermarket does best to attract next generation consumers to your store.

Steve Dozier is the National Training Director at DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing that provides a range of marketing services to the biggest and most innovative automotive organizations in the industry. For more information, email