Published on Friday, 08 July 2011
While reading recent Wheels sections, I spotted several ads containing Quick Response codes. A QR code is a small square box with black and white modules arranged in a pattern.
QR codes have been popping up everywhere — in print publications, on bus shelters, on store windows. They contain digitized information that can be scanned with a smartphone, which connects users to a custom website (or landing page).
In a car dealer ad, for instance, the landing page could include product photos, videos and content, or a service offer. It could link the user to a video or any of the dealership's social networking sites.
The appearance of QR codes is part of a new marketing frontier for auto dealers, retailers and marketers: Mobile technology. In addition to QR codes, mobile technology includes text messaging, mobile optimized websites and smartphone applications (apps).
In the retail auto sector, mobile marketing is changing the way dealers and manufacturers connect with customers and potential customers. It allows car owners and car enthusiasts to access customized dealership information from their smartphones, instantly, and from almost any location.
According to SevenMedia Inc., a Toronto-based start-up specializing in mobile technology for auto dealers, 34 per cent of all vehicle searches today are conducted from a mobile phone, compared to less than 5 per cent a year ago.
Mobile phones are expected to represent the majority of all Internet traffic by 2013. Over the next two years, look for more auto dealers to explore mobile technology in an effort to better serve their customers.
The mobile technology trend is probably old hat to young adults aged 18 – 35, but to people of a certain vintage (myself included!), the functionality of these mobile tools is pretty amazing.
QR codes aren't the only tool in the mobile tech. drawer that dealers are using to connect with customers. They are also creating mobile optimized websites designed specifically for smartphones.
Mobile optimized websites allow a dealership's website to display properly on a mobile or handheld device 24/7. The dealer's web address includes quick-loading content: a clickable phone number, email address, real-time access to used vehicle inventories, and more.
Some enterprising dealers have pushed the mobile technology envelope further by developing smartphone apps. A dealer app can be downloaded and used to book service appointments, browse used vehicle inventories, schedule test drives and contact the dealership.
Short Message Service (SMS, or texting) is another mobile technology tool that has worked successfully for major retailers, such as Coke, eBay, Walmart and, more recently, for auto dealers as well.
SMS technology allows dealers to send text messages directly to their customers' mobile phones, conveying a range of information, including new vehicle announcements, service appointment reminders, code words for entering contests, community events, and surveys.
This push toward text-message marketing makes sense, considering that text messages enjoy an open rate as high as 98 per cent, according to a 2010 report by global consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan.
Automobile manufacturers have moved into the mobile technology arena, too. The Chrysler Group, for instance, has developed new mobile apps for BlackBerry, Android and iPhone platforms, which display maintenance and warranty information, video demonstrations, 24-hour roadside assistance help and links to the brand's social networking sites.
As mobile technology gains momentum, experts are quick to point out that mobile messaging hasn't replaced conventional media. If anything, it complements it.
If you have an opinion or experience about mobile technologies related to car dealers, please email me. I'd like write a column about this topic, based on your feedback.