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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Aimi Gundersen

Aimi Gundersen Project Manager

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Are 11 pm Shoppers Serious Customers?

How long does it take you to respond to an internet lead? An hour? Two? Ten?


I am in the market for a new vehicle and have been shopping around to my local dealers. I put in a lead at 3 pm (a prime time to submit leads) and I am penning this article at 10 pm.


Still no response to that lead.


And I really wanted someone to contact me. I guess I am moving on to the next dealership.

If you think this scenario has not happened to you, you either have an amazing internet process in place or are in denial.

I have written previously about the many (and I mean many) researched articles which have studied the viability of internet leads. These studies were lengthy (some up to three years) and analyzed/quantified large amounts of data. From the Harvard Business Review to The Lead Response Management Study, they have all concluded the same results.

10 minutes

That is the amount of time in which you need to respond to a lead.  


10 minutes to pen an amazing email or call a customer. That is what you have. After 30 minutes, the viability of making contact with the potential customer decreases 21%. After an hour, the likelihood drops significantly to almost the same percentage as a cold call (Lead Response Management Study).

That is fine during the day. That should be more than attainable. Regardless if you have a BDC in place, or an internet team, or if the salespeople are taking turns answering the leads--10 minutes should not be an issue during normal business hours. After all, an internet lead should be no different than a person walking into the showroom, right? You would never imagine making a person wait that long to be greeted.

But what about your after-hour leads?

When you close your doors and turn off the lights to the dealership, what is your first hello to those leads that come in at 9, 10, or 11 pm? There is a dangerous school of thought which deems late night internet leads as nuisances. Kids on the computer. People bored at night, but not really serious.

But we know, and the industry knows, that internet research is not going away. The average car buyer is looking at multiple sources (18.2 ring a bell?) online before he ever steps foot on lot. And by that point, he has by all indication, made his decision.

So when is he shopping? He is shopping after work. After things have settled down and he has time to take a moment for himself. The internet is your digital showroom, and it is open 24 hours a day. We need to treat is as such so we don’t lose valuable customers.

We also know from our research that about 30% of all leads come in after-hours. 30% of your potential business is submitting leads when your doors and closed and your lights are off.

If you respond with an autoresponder--turn it off. The customer knows you are not working at 1 am. No need to tell him/her with an automated e-mail. Automotive News highlighted this notion in a January article which detailed how autoresponders actually hurt the sales process, opposite of what was previously thought.

You need to respect that online customer just as you would the customer who walks into the dealership at 3 pm. The only difference is that one finally had a moment to look online after hours. Are you missing out on 30% of your business? The dealerships across town may not be….

That reminds me, I need to keep looking for my new car.


Adam Ross
Great article and great points, Aimi. The only thing I would dispute here is the notion that people have made their decision prior to visiting the showroom. "The average car buyer is looking at multiple sources (18.2 ring a bell?) online before he ever steps foot on lot. And by that point, he has by all indication, made his decision." The only decision they really made was to visit that particular dealership to see if they have the combination of price and availability that satisfies that specific customer. And if they like the salesperson, bonus, but many people have purchased a vehicle despite not being thrilled with the salesperson - so I don't even consider that a determining factor 100% of the time. There are so many other factors that can alter that decision. Maybe they visit the dealership and they don't like the person or the process or the vehicle itself. (me, money, machine) An auto-responder advising that the store is closed COULD be useless, if there is no why-buy-here or special coupon also included. After-hours auto-responders which also provide a price can be quite useful to the shopper. Thanks for making me think about it more deeply this morning!
Aimi Gundersen
Adam-- I am all about jumping right in on a Friday morning! I do agree with the fact that there are so many variables in purchasing a car. Ultimately, the consumer has the majority of the information at his/her fingertips. I think that salespeople play a larger role than given credit for, but I also believe that relationships sell. That is my personal opinion, though. Purchasing anything has changed so much in the past ten years. Trying to keep up with the changing market is a job in itself!

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