New Research on QR Codes and Mobile Apps: What Consumers Want
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New Research on QR Codes and Mobile Apps: What Consumers Want

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DMEautomotive (DMEa), a science-based automotive marketing company, recently 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%), but with relatively few of them now using a dealer or service provider app (10%).

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“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.”

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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% reported to DMEa on where these “scans” took them (i.e., how they interacted with QR codes) in the last year.

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. 

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Auto service customers also reported on what they actually most desire from service provider QR codes: coupons/discounts, current store promotions and the 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.”

Mobile Apps – Higher, Intense Usage: More than twice as many service customers (44%) use mobile apps than scan QR codes (18%). And that app usage number jumps to 74% for the tech-obsessed 18-34 age demographic. Furthermore, service customers using apps use them intensely, with two in three 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. 

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Disconnect: High Consumer App Adoption, Low Service App Penetration: Despite the fact that nearly half of all service customers are now app users (a figure that will grow explosively), only 10% of survey respondents reported that they currently have a dealer/service provider app.

Current Service App Interactions: These one-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.

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The Features That Would Make Them the “Appiest”: The “wish list” of the app-less 90% 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.

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Also note: 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 service providers 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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