Research explores what QR codes and mobile apps consumers want for automotive aftermarket

Dec. 18, 2012
Survey findings reveal some significant mobile marketing opportunities for the automotive service industry, particularly with their customers' high, overall rates of mobile app usage (44 percent), but with relatively few of them now using a dealer or service provider app (10 percent).

Key Findings

  • Auto service customers are far more likely to use mobile apps (44 percent) than QR codes (18 percent).
  • 2-in-3 auto service customers that use mobile apps, use them at least daily.
  • Only 10 percent of auto service customers are currently using a mobile app offered by their dealer/service provider.
  • Top two places consumers are being routed via QR code scans: 1) product info 2) links to a webpage – typically static, non-actionable destinations.
  • What consumers want in auto service providers' QR Codes and mobile apps: coupons and ability to schedule online appointments.

DMEautomotive (DMEa), a provider of science-based, results-driven automotive marketing, released new survey findings on how - and how much - auto service customers are interacting with QR codes and mobile apps. The data also reveals which content and functionality customers most desire from a service center offering. With roughly half of all Americans now toting a smartphone, mobile marketing by dealerships and auto service providers is rightfully surging. And DMEa's findings reveal some significant mobile marketing opportunities for the service industry, particularly with their customers' high, overall rates of mobile app usage (44 percent), but with relatively few of them now using a dealer or service provider app (10 percent).

"Given the massive adoption of smartphones, it's no wonder that mobile apps and QR codes are very hot topics in automotive marketing," said Doug Van Sach, Vice President of Strategy & Analytics at DMEautomotive. "But our survey reveals that businesses that adopt cutting-edge technologies and then feed people irrelevant sales messages, or generic product/business info, are wasting the customer's time and money. People demand real, tangible value, like coupons and discounts, and functionality that will make their lives easier, like instant online appointment scheduling and timely service reminders."

Findings are based on a national survey of 2,000+ U.S. vehicle owners conducted by DMEa's Strategy & Analytics division.

QR Codes Sending People to Non-Actionable and "Sales-y" Content: Less than a fifth of service customers have scanned a QR code. And that modest 18 percent reported to DMEa on where these "scans" took them (i.e., how they interacted with QR codes) in the last year:

Where QR Codes Sent Service Customers in the Last Year

  • Obtain additional product information, 44 percent
  • Open a webpage link, 44 percent
  • Receive coupons or discount, 36 percent
  • Enter a sweepstakes or promotion, 33 percent
  • Obtain contact information for a person or business, 19 percent
  • Make a purchase, 18 percent
  • Connect to a social media site, 16 percent
  • Access a survey, 15 percent
  • Subscribe to receive emails or e-newsletters, 14 percent
  • Make an appointment, 10 percent

Notably, the top two "places" consumers are being directed to via QR codes are product info and links to a webpage. These are typically static, "not much in it for me" destinations, which can run the risk of quickly losing a customer's attention.

Auto service customers also reported on what they actually most desire from dealership/service provider QR codes:

Service Customers' "Most Wanted" from QR Codes

  1. Coupons/discounts
  2. Current store promotions
  3. Ability to schedule online appointments

These top three demands ranked higher than all other attributes, including "connecting to provider's website" or getting "general automotive/maintenance info."

More than twice as many service customers (44 percent) use mobile apps than scan QR codes (18 percent). And that app usage number jumps to 74 percent for the tech-obsessed 18-34 demographic. Furthermore, service customers using apps use them intensely, with 2 in 3 turning to them at least once daily. This is good news for service businesses because, compared to QR Codes, which are, by nature, scan and go, mobile apps enable them to forge daily, always-there customer connections.

Despite the fact that nearly half of all service customers are now app users (a figure that will grow explosively), only 10 percent of survey respondents reported that they currently have a dealer/service provider app.

And, these 1-in-10 service customers that now use a dealer/service center app reported on how they most interact with it. This data, shining some light on what features they find most useful, provides one window into what service app providers should most include in their offerings.

For service-app-using customers, the functions that they interact with the most (coupons, dealer incentives, service reminders, etc.) - and the least (general car model/maintenance/financing info, or connecting to provider's website) - again clearly illustrate that consumers demand real, tangible value, and actionable info and tools that make their lives easier.

The Features That Would Make Them the "Appiest"

The "wish list" of the app-less 90 percent of service customers provides an even more accurate window into the features consumers most desire in a service provider app. The top 5 are: 1) coupons, 2) online appointment scheduling, 3) service reminders, 4) recall alerts and 5) vehicle maintenance histories. It's interesting to note the very high percentage of respondents that report that they would embrace these key features if their dealer/service center offered them in an app. The data clearly indicates that far more customers would adopt service apps if they integrated the functionality people demand.

Many of the most-wanted features (i.e., service reminders, vehicle maintenance histories, etc.) require that the app be fully integrated into the business' DMS. And since DMS-app integration allows dealers/service centers to send the right messages/offers about the right vehicles at the right time, it makes implementing these features a major "win" for both customer and business.

"Wave one with any new technology is adoption, and wave two is where businesses get it right, aligning their offerings with what consumers actually demand," said Van Sach. "While far more service businesses have jumped into QR codes than mobile apps, the former is essentially just a 'door' sending people to short-lived, and hopefully engaging, information. But mobile apps, which are always in that customer's pocket or purse, uniquely forge long-term, hyper-close customer connections. They're the 'big house' a business can build their service relationships on, but only if they build that house right."

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