Question: What was the first smartphone, and when did it debut?
If your first thought was the Apple iPhone, you’re probably not alone – but you are most definitely wrong. The first smartphone debuted in 1994, was built by IBM and named the Simon Personal Communicator. It was the first mobile device to combine a cellphone with PDA features…thus making it a “smart” phone.
Fifteen years later, the iPhone debuted. And that changed virtually every aspect of modern life — especially the business of automotive retail. From the way dealership staff work to how shoppers buy, today it’s possible to handle virtually every aspect of a car purchase via mobile devices. Most people are already well on their way to doing exactly that: According to a recent study by AutoTrader, 42 percent of car buyers use multiple devices to shop for a car and it’s growing rapidly.1 By 2020, it is projected to be 80 percent.
“People like to do things on the go, and they like to be informed,” said Michael Collins, Dealertrack senior vice president of lender and F&I solutions. “It’s especially so when they’re shopping for a vehicle. Smartphones and tablets give consumers a powerful and transparent resource wherever they are, and whenever they choose to shop and research.” It’s a classic and indelible example of how technology has changed the world, right down to how we market and sell vehicles. In fact, there are at least three ways that the world of mobile has already and forever changed the way you do things at the dealership:
1. Put away the four square and pick up the tablet.
In 2013, JD Power and Associates reported that “sales satisfaction among new vehicle buyers is 52 points higher when their salesperson uses a tablet device than when their salesperson does not use a tablet during the sales process.” That’s really not too surprising. Shoppers feel more comfortable using a tablet because it’s a personal and collaborative experience; dealer personnel and shoppers can review and finish the deal side by side, working together through the app on the tablet to find the right car, price, and financing option.
2. Be informed. Be very informed.
The use of mobile technology has put consumers’ knowledge into hyper drive, and they expect sales consultants to be right there with them. From vehicle features to access to already submitted credit and trade information, and even being able to create a professional menu selling experience, your sales team should be leveraging mobile technology throughout the showroom to create happy customers, bigger profits, and a more robust experience. Mobile technology helps to maintain consistency in the bridge from digital retailing to the in-store transaction.
3. Start thinking in minutes instead of hours.
It’s Saturday, and you want to buy a car. Are you, or anyone, still willing to wait four hours to do it? That’s not likely, even though many dealerships try to force shoppers into traditional and lengthy sales steps. In fact, that’s the average – but it’s changing, and fast. Mobile has refashioned expectations to one hour once customers are inside the showroom. Shoppers have done the work online, perhaps on a mobile device, and now expect that you have the tools at hand to continue to process and wrap up the transaction in a way that streamlines the deal, reduces paperwork, and accelerates closure.
Mobile technology has opened the door to fast and total access of information, an advantage that car shoppers are using to educate themselves and help create an ideal purchase. Today’s dealerships should also be leveraging the values of mobile to bridge the gap between online and in-store, and to create that ideal and profitable customer experience.