Cobalt Group Releases Its Annual Automotive eShopper Experience™ Study
A comprehensive survey of automotive shopper response practices by dealerships
SEATTLE, January 12, 2009 — Cobalt, the leading provider of automotive digital marketing solutions and services, announced the release of the Automotive eShopper Experience Study, the largest and longest research initiative of its kind in the industry with results from dealerships representing thirty OEM brands. At the industry level the study shows substantial improvement in the quality of the online automotive consumer’s experience, but from a low performance baseline. A key finding in this year’s report is the significant improvement in the performance of the Chevrolet brand to scores exceeding all of its volume peers and to levels approaching Lexus, the industry’s perennial champion.
Since 2004, Cobalt has conducted the industry’s largest and most comprehensive online consumer experience studies through its eMystery Shop™ service. This year marks the release of the first comprehensive overview of the shops’ results, as well as a ranking of the top five performing OEM brands for 2007 and 2008. The study was conducted by presenting highly qualified sales opportunities to dealers through their websites and monitoring the timeliness, thoroughness and quality of the dealer’s response to the consumer’s inquiry. Response content was judged on how completely the dealer answered the shopper’s questions, as well as their professionalism in the initial contact.
Tough times have made dealers more responsive to shoppers. The Automotive eShopper Index™ is an integrated score of the overall effectiveness of dealership lead handling practices, which can be tracked by brand and trended over time. Using this index, the average of all brands improved from 30.5 to 39.0 on a 100 point scale from 2007 to 2008, driven primarily by an uptick in dealers responding to a higher percentage of leads. However, there remains room for improvement, especially in the area of response quality.
- Dealers do not respond, by email or phone, to one in four shoppers submitting leads.
- When they respond, dealers are following up more consistently with an average of 3.1 follow-ups (vs. 2.0 in 2005).
- If a shopper asks for the price of a new vehicle, they will be given this information less than 25% of the time.
- Only 13% or responding dealerships provide the shopper with information about the benefits of their particular brand or vehicle.
At the top of the brand rankings, Lexus dealers hold the top spot based on the timeliness of their responses. However, the significant news for 2008 is Chevrolet’s leap from its 2007 ranking at 15th place, to its second place overall ranking in 2008. Chevrolet dealers delivered major improvements across the board in response rate and response quality. VW took a third-place ranking overall based on a combination of lead response time and relevant lead response content. Additional ranking information is available in the study whitepaper.
“As the leader in automotive digital marketing, Cobalt invests in research on all aspects of the online automotive shopper experience,” said Chris Reed, Chief Marketing Officer of Cobalt. “We are pleased to provide the automotive industry with the insights they need to improve consumer engagement and marketing efficiency.”
Cobalt is North America’s leading provider of automotive marketing services. For thirteen years, Cobalt’s mission has been to help automobile dealers and manufacturers increase their retailing effectiveness and profitability. Cobalt provides marketing services to half of the automotive dealerships in the United States, as well as automotive dealers in Canada and Mexico. Cobalt’s marketing services are endorsed by approximately two-thirds of the world’s major automotive manufacturers.