Consumers shopping for new cars online prefer to be contacted by dealers first via e-mail rather than phone, according to study released last week by automotive market research firm Friedman-Swift Associates, Cincinnati, and online automotive products and services provider The Cobalt Group, Seattle.
Eighty-two percent of surveyed respondents preferred an e-mail reply to initial online inquiries; 10 percent had no preference; 7 percent asked for a phone call; and only 1 percent preferred a fax response.
Consumers also expect quick replies to their inquiries, but aren’t always receiving that attention. Eighty-two percent said they expected e-mail replies in 24 hours or less, but only 55 percent of dealers responded within that time frame, and 19 percent didn’t respond at all, according to the survey.
The report suggests that auto dealers will need to consider writing skills in addition to verbal skills when hiring salespeople in the future, according to Judy George, senior vice president of Friedman-Swift, who coordinated the study.
These findings do not suggest that e-mail is replacing phone calls for car dealers and shoppers, George said. Phone calls are preferred later in the consumers’ decision-making process.
Key findings of the research are available at www.friedmanswift.com. Of the 934 consumers who responded to the survey, 77 percent said they planned to buy a car within the next year.