Let’s put aside the statistics on how many drivers there are in the world. Perhaps the person reading this article is one of them. At least the one who is writing it is definitely one of them. So I want to share a personal ‘pain’:
I am too lazy to call the dealer, if I need to make an appointment for service, find out something, etc. I like everything with the ‘online’ prefix
I often need a history of the manipulations that have been done to my car to remember when I changed the turbine, the amount and kind of oil I need to use.
Apart from that, being a loving husband, I have to deal with all the car issues for my wife. But I dream of the time when she can just come to service without asking too many questions and leave. It means that the specialists would know about everything she needs in advance.
So, slowly but surely, I am getting to the subject of mobile apps for car dealers. In fact, this is still uncharted territory for Russia and the CIS. I mean, there are some types of services available on a smartphone, but they are half-hearted. And we want it to be convenient at the level of top banking. And the question arises: “Why are the dealers so slow? What are they waiting for?” Do they really think they will always have their clients? The pandemic has already shown what is not the case. Therefore, let’s find out together how to boost the car business with the help of IT.
Why Does a Car Dealer Need a Mobile App?
Depending on the warranty period of the car, the client’s relationship with the official car dealer lasts from 3 to 5 years. It should come as no surprise that the dealership has the task of keeping the client during the transition from warranty to post-warranty service. Of course, maybe not all managers know about it. But still. Certainly, first of all, car owner will care about the price of service. But it is often higher at official dealers. Therefore, personalized attitude, service convenience, transparency, discounts, etc. — everything that will save them from becoming ‘unofficial dealers’ — come into action.
And that is where the mobile app comes in handy. First of all, it is a handy tool for marketers. It is a treasure trove of information about the client (car model, purchase history, number of drivers). Therefore, the dealer can inform about special promotions and discounts using push notifications. What is the catch? Firstly, this is simply the most personalized offer possible, which is harder to refuse than the threadbare Black Friday. Secondly, this way we remind the dealer and make additional sales during the customer lifecycle.
App As a Way to Survive the Pandemic
Across Russia, dealerships have begun to close. In the first half of 2020, their number dropped by 218 — almost three times more than in the entire previous year.
Not everyone was happy with this, and 90% of dealers changed the final part of the deal. Before the pandemic, the traditional car sales cycle looked like this: go to the dealership — take a test drive — buy. During the pandemic it has transformed: you looked at the manager’s online presentation and bought a car without a test drive, probably also online. In April, AvtoVAZ, Chery, Nissan, Hyundai Motor CIS, and Kia Motors Russia & CIS were the first to try this. Others began to develop from scratch or update the existing mobile applications.
Nissan, by the way, was prepared for the pandemic: in January 2019, they launched the Cars in Stock online service. Using it, you can pick up a car and find out about its availability at the desired dealership.
How to Build a Mobile App?
The IT direction (web and mobile) is not a profile for the automobile market, and the Toyota dealership does not need its own development department. So any car dealership has two choices:
to hire a team of developers to make a mobile app according to the individual ToR;
to take an existing platform and use it to create an application that best meets their needs, and if necessary, customize it.
Pros/Cons of Both Options
The first one will save you a lot of headaches and allow you to do something trendy, but depending on the ‘stuffing’, it may require a large expenditure from the client. Plus, we certainly remember that IT is always changing and improving, and you can’t make a website or an app and never update it again. So it is worth remembering about maintenance, which you will have to ‘subscribe’ to.
As opposed to that we have out-of-the-box solutions. Yes, it is more affordable. But (of course, there is one catch) such an application will not allow you to get away from the competition, offer better service to the client, or easily modify any of your own ideas.
Customizing an out-of-the-box solution is a real hassle. It is not always easy and fast. And most importantly, not necessarily the way you want it to be. If you do not care about gimmicks and features, then perhaps this solution is for you.
We prefer to create everything from scratch, for example, the application for the official BMW dealer in Belarus, Bayernkraft.
How We Developed the Bayernkraft Case
You can read about the whole case here. In the meantime, I will tell you why I think the project is super cool. We have reached deeper into the lives of customers and managers: the app is fully integrated with 1C and can perform the calculation of man-hours. The manager at the same time does not need to change the ‘place of work’. The manager stays in 1C as before. Meanwhile, the client can:
Get an actual service appointment instead of leaving a callback request
Receive individual calculations of prices instead of long price-lists
View a catalog of new cars with a set of filters and the ability to sign up for a test drive
View the entire history of purchases and service work
Track the status of a vehicle in the service center
Chat with the manager
Get service packages (for example, preparing the car for the winter)
However, the cooperation with the dealership did not stop there. For almost one more year, we were completing the new killer features and introducing the benefits. For example, now you can divide the types of work into service and warranty, choose a particular technician for an appointment, and sell (view) used cars.
What Is Next for Dealers?
After the pandemic, the demand for cars in Russia has considerably grown compared to last year, especially for cars under a million rubles — there are almost no cars left in stock. Most notably, the number of Skoda Octavia (-89%), Volkswagen Polo (-86%), and KIA Rio (-78%) has decreased, and of all Russian brands — LADA XRay (-89%) and LADA Largus (-86%). This can be explained by the fact that people are afraid to use public transport and prefer personal cars.
Even though the sales figures are growing, the approach has already changed. The pandemic is still with us, and unless dealers and automakers want to suffer the same losses as in the first wave, we need to bet on digital.
The latest news shows that this is what is happening:
Ozon, together with Nissan and KIA, will sell cars through the marketplace.
Hyundai has launched online sales of cars with a full buying cycle, including payment, insurance, and credit.
The other day Audi has announced the launch of direct online sales. You no longer need dealers to buy cars — the full cycle of self-selling cars is available on the company’s website and in the app. The car can be picked up at Audi City Moscow or delivered to your home.
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