Although mobile-optimized sites and apps can help brands successfully engage with smartphone users, Short Message Service (SMS), or text message marketing can help organizations connect with a larger sample of consumers.
Edmunds is an online platform that allows car shoppers and local dealers to connect directly, as well as research, sell and purchase cars. Using the SMS platform Carcode, Edmunds is helping consumers and dealers communicate on a more direct and intimate level.
Offering the Carcode feature to all partners free of charge, Edmunds has seen dealer leads increase by 19%. Moreover, 29% of text-based conversations eventually convert into phone calls.
“Our own research tells us that at least one-third of shoppers would prefer to communicate with dealers via text, and dealers know that text messaging is proven to be an effective tool to close more deals,” said Avi Steinlauf, CEO of Edmunds. “Carcode also allows them to better manage text messages on their customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, which has always been an obstacle when they’ve used text messaging in the past.”
With seamless CRM integration, dealers can ensure follow-up conversations with customers continue, even if their designated representative is out of the office.
“Dealerships haven’t had a way to move conversations between salespeople and keep shopper interactions alive,” Steinlauf explained. If a salesperson is unresponsive because they are unavailable, has a day off or is sick, he added, there is always a chance that the dealership will lose the opportunity.
Using SMS text messaging, dealers can provide “immediate answers to questions around inventory availability and verification, price, photos on new and used cars, and trade-ins,” Steinlauf added. Edmunds initially discovered Carcode during the Hackomotive competition, which invites start-ups to refine their ideas and products designed to improve car shopping.
“Carcode won first place at Hackomotive, and we were so impressed with their product that we invited them to participate in our Fastlane Accelerator,” Steinlauf said. “The Accelerator is a three-month program where startups work with Edmunds to test new car shopping products and experiences. After working so closely with Carcode, we recognized the urgent need to bring this technology to a wider audience of shoppers and dealers.”
A History Of Service Innovation
Developed to help take the pain out of car shopping, the foundation of Edmunds’ business model is to assist shoppers in finding the right car, at the right price, from the right dealer. In fact, its focus on customer service and experience led to J.D. Power naming Edmunds the best third-party automotive web site.
Because cars have such a high price point, consumers often take longer, and prefer to consult a variety of sources, before making a final buying decision. To drive education, engagement and conversions, Edmunds provides a variety of services and products. For example, the Price Promise platform ensures that Edmunds offers a guaranteed upfront price on an in-stock vehicle. This platform is accessible via the Edmunds mobile app and also provides inventory updates for specific areas.
Edmunds also recently developed a “build and locate” feature that lets allows consumers to configure a car and match it with inventory that meets those exact specs. From a service perspective, Edmunds not only offers live chat to bring a human touch to online car shopping, but also posts ratings and reviews for all cars and dealers.
“It isn’t about quoting our customers the lowest price on a car that doesn’t exist — and initiating a bait-and-switch once on the lot,” Steinlauf said. “Instead, it is about being transparent and arming our customers and dealers with the information they need to make confident decisions, whether at home or on the go.”