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ldquoDealers who handle it right build customer confidencerdquo Walker says
<p><strong>&ldquo;Dealers who handle it right build customer confidence,&rdquo; Walker says.</strong></p>

Car Shoppers Increasingly Use Mobile Devices at Dealerships

Some dealership salespeople are OK with customers brandishing smartphones, some aren&rsquo;t, according to a J.D. Power study.

A dealership salesperson tells how a customer sitting across the desk shocked him by pulling out a smartphone to verify the competitiveness of his price quotes.

Right there at the dealership, for goodness’ sake, the dumbfounded staffer says on an online forum.

But trends say this: Learn to deal with it. So-called “showrooming” at the dealership is happening and will happen more with the proliferation of mobile-device use, says Arianne Walker, a senior director at J.D. Power.

“Dealers who handle it right build customer confidence,” she tells WardsAuto. “Negative reaction and a lack of transparency increase distrust.”

J.D. Power’s latest New Auto Shopper Study asked people in the market about their digital use prior to buying.

Of online vehicle shoppers, 28% are using smartphones at some point, a 40% increase from two years ago. Of that group, almost half are using the device at the dealership. That’s a 6-percentage-point increase from last year.

Of people using mobile devices at the dealership, 61% of them accessed pricing information. Among that group:

  • 84% used the information to negotiate.
  • 73% thought they got a better deal by leveraging price information during the negotiations.
  • 81% ended up buying a vehicle at the store in which they used their mobile devices to check prices.

“Pricing is the most popular content accessed at the dealership,” Walker says.

Some dealers are OK with the customers doing that, some aren’t. For this year’s study, J.D. Power asked consumers about dealership salespeople’s reaction to it. The results: 53% of the feedback was neutral, 37% positive and 10% negative.

The study didn’t gauge how a customer’s particular use of a mobile device on the premises might affect a salesperson’s reaction. For instance, a shopper wielding a mobile device like it is loaded weaponry presumably would draw a more negative response than someone using it less contentiously.

Regardless, it’s in the interest of dealerships to handle all types, including brash smartphone brandishers, Walker says.

“As an industry, we have to be accepting of however the consumer pulls out that smartphone and uses the information, because it’s now readily available,” she says. “Dealers need to know what information is out there and work with the customer. The consumer is not going to say, ‘I could have been more polite in how I used my smartphone.’ They’re just going to go somewhere else.”

Generally, consumers just want to make sure they are not taken advantage of, Walker says. “They’re not necessarily looking for the absolute lowest price. Someone could be willing to pay a little more for a good, transparent, trusting conversation.”

The study says positive dealership reactions to consumer use of mobile devices in the store drew customer comments such as:

  • “They were great. They told me I could even use their desktop computer if it would be easier.”
  • “They were fine with it. The dealership is very transparent, which is why I returned to buy a second vehicle from them.”

Conversely, negative dealer reaction begot these consumer observations:

  • “They were not happy I was checking with other dealerships.”
  • “They were astonished because they took me for an inexperienced car buyer…(But) it wasn’t my first rodeo.”

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