Southfield, Michigan – How automotive dealers respond to online shopping inquiries significantly impacts vehicle purchase decisions, according to a forthcoming study that will be released in April by R. L. Polk & Co. More than 570 new car purchasers in the U.S. were surveyed about their online shopping experience. The study concluded that a simple response from dealers is not enough to build customer loyalty. Rather, dealers must respond as consumers request, factoring in content, speed and method of response, in order to increase the chance of selling a vehicle.

Polk’s study found that consumers are most interested in vehicle availability and price, with model purchase price range tending to be the most important pricing information. Getting the lowest price for a vehicle is not the single most important determinant for most consumers. Rather, buyers are willing to pay a competitive price for a vehicle.

“Dealers can improve make loyalty significantly by improving satisfaction with response time and pricing information,” said Lonnie Miller, director of Industry Analysis, R. L. Polk & Co. “If a dealer is not already including price information in their response, they should begin doing so immediately. That, coupled with speed, can yield an average increase in make loyalty of 3.4 percentage points.”

Additionally, Polk’s analysis reveals that 47 percent of consumers wishing to receive an email response view 10-24 hours as an acceptable turnaround time. Sixty-eight percent of consumers preferring to be contacted by phone expected to be contacted within one hour, according to the survey, giving dealerships some insight into the increasing expectations of consumers using online tools for vehicle shopping.

“Paying attention to the method of response is critical to the success of a dealer’s online leads. Customers want to do business with dealers who listen to them,” said Miller. “Polk’s study shows that 70 percent of respondents who purchased from a responding dealer were contacted by their preferred communication method.”

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