DEARBORN - Sales consultants at nearly 1,200 Ford dealerships throughout the country are now using Apple iPads equipped with a specially designed SHOWCASE app to enhance the vehicle-buying experience for consumers.
Using the SHOWCASE app, a sales associate can sit with a customer to select a vehicle – based on color, trim level and features – and within seconds check dealer inventory to see which vehicles in stock most closely match what he or she is looking for. The app also provides sales personnel with an easy and immediate way to show customers short, concise videos explaining vehicle features and technologies.
“We’re working with our dealers to improve the sales process and to leverage new technologies into that experience to make it better for the consumer,” said Michelle Moody, manager, Cross Vehicle Marketing.
Fourteen dealers – including Village Ford in Dearborn, Mich. – participated in a pilot program in 2011 to define and test the SHOWCASE app, which was developed by Ford, Razorfish, FordDirect and Versata.
“They were very good at listening to our feedback and very responsive to our needs,” said Kathy Ferguson, sales consultant, Village Ford. “That’s one of the reasons we embraced the program. It really works for us.”
Bob Wheat, general sales manager, Village Ford, says the new technology demonstrates Ford as a market leader.
“Ford is working hard to keep us on top of the game,” he said. “We like the SHOWCASE app, and we felt it was appropriate and timely enough to warrant our investment, to get our people to embrace it and to keep us at the forefront of technology.”
Wheat says the SHOWCASE app brings a “wow” factor to the dealership.
“We can show a customer a vehicle on the lot and when they ask what it looks like in green, with different wheels or in a different trim package we can show them right then and there,” he said. “And they are very impressed.”
Prior to the introduction of the SHOWCASE app, sales consultants would have had to scout the lot for other vehicles matching the customer’s criteria or return to the showroom to check inventory, which often took a great deal of time.
“This is immediate,” said Wheat. “It’s now. It’s fresh. And it’s got a great visual feel.”
Ferguson says she often uses the SHOWCASE app to help customers who are trying to decide between different vehicles.
“There’s a notebook feature on the app that allows you to set up a file for a particular customer and load it with the cars he or she might be interested in,” she explained. “Then you can do immediate side-by-side comparisons and show the customer which vehicle gets better gas mileage, which one has more interior space, etc.”
Moody says the SHOWCASE app can make the overall sales experience more productive since prospective clients can review vehicles chosen specifically for them before stepping foot into the dealership.
“Let’s say you call a dealer and you’re interested in a Fusion but you’re not sure what color you want but you want it to have certain features. As a sales consultant I can compile a notebook of Fusions in stock that meet your criteria and e-mail it to you with a whole set of rich media assets for you to see,” she explained. “When you do come into the dealership the process will be much shorter because you’ve already had a chance to choose the car you want.”
Since the iPad is mobile, Wheat says he takes his with him wherever he goes – whether it’s socializing with friends at a community event or running errands around town.
“I pulled up at the cleaners one morning and the owner said he really liked my new Focus. He said his wife needed a new car, so I went out to my car, got the iPad and asked him what color his wife liked,” recalled Wheat. “He said she liked blue, so I showed him a Blue Focus we had in stock on the iPad and we sent an e-mail to his wife with a picture of the car, the window sticker and everything else and asked her to come in a take a look.”
Ferguson also keeps her iPad with her at all times.
“It’s like taking the showroom with you,” she said.