I had a dealership smartphone app in 2009. I was running (at the time) our lone domestic store in Gainesville, FL and I thought I was ahead of the crowd. I was ahead of my peers; therefore someone please hand me a gold star...right? Clearly having an application before your competition is a competitive advantage right? WRONG.
No matter what in store process I would install the application garnered ... well ... about 0% utilization. Why not? You could make a service appointment, contact a tow truck after an accident or browse our inventory all from this single app - it had some value. So why didn't it work?
For an application to work frequency is everything. If a smartphone user isn't using it everyday or weekly it simply gathers dust on the metaphorical "shelf" like an off target Christmas gift. Service intervals in our business are increasing not growing smaller and I feel this directly correlates with the ability of say a dealership service application to become successful. Because service is the most frequent activity someone has in relation to a dealership most dealership applications have been targeted as a service retention and revenue driver. BUT the frequency of visits or rather the INFREQUENCY of visits is still just too few over too long a time period for an app to garner any real value in my opinion.
A vender that builds dealership applications will tell you it's a great funnel or channel for long term communications with customers and in theory it's true. What do you do however when the customer abandons that funnel so soon after download? In short if people don't "use it" they "lose it," or rather the perception of any value that it would bring to their daily life. Sooo....while apps are hip and cool and a nice one may turn the head of the crew at your upcoming 20 group meeting...listen to Brett. Invest in a capable mobile platform and put your effort and energy there. You'll be glad you did. The web browser on a customer's smartphone is still one of the best "apps" there is.