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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith

Lindsey Auguste and Dennis Galbraith Investigative Reporters

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The Rapid Evolution of Chat

 

Less than five years ago, Dennis was being driven around to various stores who were using this relatively new thing called chat. By the end of the day, he realized chat was not about online advertising. It was the fourth way in which shoppers would transition from an online world of purely technological touchpoints to their first human contact with the store. Chat and texting join phone, email, and walking in as one of the doors available to consumers for that first human touch point.

Today, chat is used by the vast majority of franchised dealers. It accounts for a growing number of initial contacts between shoppers and dealers. Wherever inventory is listed online, it is essential that consumers be given the opportunity to reach out to dealers in the manner they are most comfortable with at the time. The recent agreements for both Edmunds and Dealix to begin offering chat through ContactAtOnce highlight the ultimate ubiquity of chat around listings.

Chat is the only initial human touchpoint that is both silent and immediately conversational. Why is this important? When shoppers quit shopping from work, the essential nature of chat may be somewhat diminished, but don't hold your breath. Chat volume continues to grow around the clock, but weekday afternoons remain the times when chat volume is highest. 

Are you using chat in your store?  Is it as effective as you'd like?

Dennis Galbraith
It was reported in Automotive News this week that only about 20% of dealers have chat on their websites. That may be the case, but the big explosion in chat is through third-party sites. Those dealers who utilize chat with Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, Edmunds, and UsedCars.com have a competitive advantage over dealers who do not. The results can be seen in the conversion from Vehicle Details Pages (VDPs) to tracked contacts (phone + email + chat). As more dealers become comfortable with chat on these sites, I'm sure we will see many more of them adding chat to their own websites as well.
Jim Bell
I was always a little weary of having chat on our site, but it has paid off multiple times our spend. It is a great option for that customer that isn't supposed to be on your website at work in their cubicle to be able to have another way to communicate with the dealership. Has been a great asset for us.
John Silva
We added chat to our site a year ago. I was concerned that the number of calls would drop as chat increased and boy, was I wrong! Our call volume remains as high as it was and we're handling a very high volume of chats. It's like we just found a bunch of new customers! Even some of the more skeptical salespeople have closed sales with customers that have started out from a chat!
Aaron Hassen
Lots to be excited about in the world of chat. Thanks for posting this timely and informative update. Over the last five years there has been a focus on educating dealers on the value of chat while progressive dealerships and early adopters added chat to increase leads and sales. Now, with nearly every major third-party listing site including Edmunds.com driving chat leads to dealers and industry publications including AutomotiveNews (the latest) taking notice, we are seeing an acceleration in general adoption. In fact, one of the things that used to be said about chat was that you should 'place it on your website in order to have a competitive advantage over the dealerships down the street.' Now it's more likely that the dealership down the street already has chat and if you want to compete at all, you'll consider adding it too.

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