Half of email enquiries to car dealers are still going unanswered, according to research by vehicle listing service AutoTrader.
AutoTrader, part of Bauer Media Group, commissioned the research through Nielsen NZ, which surveyed a sample of its website users during February and March this year.
The results, according to Head of Bauer Trader NZ Terry Williams King, show that car dealers are doing some things well and other things not so well.
"What was very scary was that 50% of the people who sent an email inquiry never heard back from the dealer,” Williams King says.
That number means lost sales, particularly with the improving rate of sales enquiries to Autotrader since the last time the survey was run in 2012 – from one in five emails to one in three.
“If all the emails were answered, potentially that figure could double from one to two out of three,” Williams King says. “It is a huge opportunity lost. Overall two out of every three leads will result in a purchase from the website.”
King notes that AutoTrader filters emails passed on to dealers, cutting out robot or spam requests.
Williams King said one of the barriers to answering email enquiries from prospective buyers was that dealers preferred to speak to the customer directly – with the perception that they will have a higher chance of closing a sale.
"Dealers have always preferred the phone call over the email, because they like to speak to the customer. However, they need to put value on email – as we know cars sell from emails,” he says.
“If you reply to email, 58% of those enquiries will end up speaking to you face to face, or on the phone,” he explains. "If you answer your email you have a far better chance of talking to someone.”
Conversely, of the emails answered, most are answered in excellent time.
According to the survey, 69% of dealer responses are made within three hours – up 10% on the last survey. And 79% of people who purchased a vehicle or were considering purchasing one said the seller was very helpful.
However, only 41% received a reply within three hours, and 15% of inquiries did not get a response for up to three days or more.
Meanwhile, another key finding in the survey was the timing between research and purchase.
“Of the users surveyed, 42% of buyers had started shopping within the last month,” says Williams King. “It used to be three months from when you started researching to your first enquiry.”
Kiwis are shopping around more too, with a higher percentage of calls being made to Christchurch dealers from Auckland and vice versa. “People are happy to find the car they want and travel to get,” says Williams King.
New car buyers are also increasingly looking online as well, with 22% of those shopping through the site considered a new car at the time of enquiry
Dealers are succeeding at cross selling, with only 31% of buyers transacting on the car they originally enquired on.
Reminder to go mobile
Williams King says dealers need to be ensuring their website is mobile friendly, or they are listing in a mobile friendly way.
Last month Google began reducing the search ranking of sites that did not meet its standards for mobile friendliness, at a time when mobile traffic for car sales is rising.
“Our weekend traffic on mobile is off the scale,” he says. “People are searching on their mobile and off they go.”