Mobile Device Evolution Requires More Apps for Auto Industry

Either you are an auto dealer looking for ways to improve your business, or a car owner thinking how to sell your old Toyota, or a driver-to-be searching for bargains, it’s time to seriously consider using one of mobile applications developed for the automotive industry. Of course if you are not yet using one of them. If not – it is high time to start, if you are not willing to miss out on thousands of opportunities they offer.

Cars are inherently mobile – that much is certain. Even when stuck in traffic today, a driver will hardly get his bulky laptop out to search information or look up directions, but will most likely use a tablet or phone, let alone when he is on the go. Or as an option, if it is a brand new car, its owner may also use an app already incorporated in his dashboard. Whatever it be, sooner or later every new car will have downloadable applications, either through a connected smartphone or a built-in data link to local wireless carriers.

That’s why having mobile apps and Internet-based services, it’s easy to shoehorn into the in-car environment. It means a great opportunity for dealers to get consumer attention, and gather data. In other words, an auto app with rich and relevant content that is able to solve automotive-related issues can do wonders for your dealership. Moreover, more car buyers are turning to mobile devices and online sources to research potential purchases.

Here is some statistics to support the above:

  • 80% of digitally savvy car buyers spend an average of 18 hours online searching for models and prices before purchasing (data released from Google)
  • 71% of consumers use a smartphone during the car buying process (a study by Placed)
  • 63% car buyers use their Smartphones while at a dealership (a study by Placed).

Therefore we see that astounding number of consumers use their mobile device to make a purchase decision, including 35% who use it to decide what their next automobile is going to be. What’s more, a new study reveals that mobile app users become more frequent visitors to dealership service department after they download an app, visiting about 50% more often than non-app users.

Apart from that, a dealer-branded mobile app designed to keep customers engaged may also drive significant revenues. A research indicates that a customer with a dealership-branded mobile app is 73% more likely to buy a vehicle from that dealer than a customer without one, and app users spend 7% more on their vehicle purchase than non-app users. Thus, this proves that apps not only engage customers, but also deliver significant increasing service revenue.

To take advantage of such exciting opportunities, car manufacturers need to make their in-vehicle platforms the most compelling for potential users of their vehicles. They remember that the content they offer needs to be tailored to their customers and it is consumer friendly and easy to use. Because if it is not, there will be less people walking into their dealerships.

With this in mind, lots of forums and telematics conferences have been recently held devoted to these two interrelated topics: cars and auto apps, such comprehensive and informative as The Automotive Apps and Mobile Device Evolution 2013 conference in Berlin and Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 in Munich.

Automakers do not stay on the sidelines. They realize that software development services can strengthen their competitiveness within the automotive industry. They also realize the necessity to work with third-party developers to create such apps, because if they don’t, their competitors will do it instead of them. Aftermarket companies want to provide consumers with an easy access to the content they already get from their mobile devices. If put it differently, to make it easier for drivers to get the information they want in the car that’s already on their phones. Therefore the dominant industry players in the auto industry’s next century will be those that embrace this tendency early.

Pioneers in the auto industry who realized the advantages of the creativity and talent of those outside of a company are Ford and General Motors. These car companies announced concrete programs with SDKs and APIs that are open for developers and aimed at creation of in-vehicle mobile apps.

However, the Ford’s and GM’s approaches are quite different. Ford focuses on bringing smartphones into the car and having apps run on the phone, while GM is betting on apps in the car’s built-in infotainment system. Both approaches have their pros and cons. Ford’s AppLink system can be easy integrated into existing apps and doesn’t require drivers to pay again for one more data plan. On the other hand, speaking about GM’s model, drivers don’t necessitate a smartphone to use the app, and it’s more deeply integrated with the car.

From our point of view, Ford’s framework has one more essential merit. We’re used to the fast pace in the world of mobile development, and we can easily adjust to it changing smartphones almost as often as new ones appear in the market. But we can’t afford buying new cars as often as we buy phones. That’s why when the in-car integrated system underperforms, since new and more powerful ones pop up, drivers are unlikely to buy a new car and will continue using that already underpowered system directly tied to their cars.

According to Julius Marchwicki, Ford’s global product manager for AppLink, Ford is betting on apps that provide news and information, music and entertainment, navigation and location. But the company will refuse apps that use too much texting, video and gaming in order to limit distractions for drivers. Ford will offer support through its own jacAPPS mobile app development house, as well as its app-testing partner, Cetecom. One more example is Ford’s recent collaborations with Facebook in hackathons, where engineers prototyped social Facebook apps for cars.

Anyway, aftermarket companies and their tech suppliers still have to face a lot of issues to struggle with, such as device compatibility, the auto industry’s endemic lag, and constant pressure from public authorities who worry about a new level of deadly driver distraction.

Whatever the approach be, a connected smartphone or a built-in app, the message is clear: there is no future of the auto industry without apps.

What is interesting to see now is what apps developers come up with today taking into account these all new auto-software trends.

App-equipped cars most obviously have location-based and location-sharing apps, turn-by-turn navigation apps, current speed, performance data and road conditions apps. Apps can as well offer parking management and accident detection and reporting solutions. There are some apps available already that automatically read newspaper and magazine articles.

Solutions on the car-related apps market used by car manufacturers, drivers and car dealers are indeed very diverse. They may range from navigation to alternative transportation, from vehicle performance to roadside assistance and insurance; from best gasoline prices in the area to information and in-car entertainment. Mobile applications also include weather, road and traffic conditions, roadside services, realtime vehicle technical status: tire pressure, battery capacity, fuel and oil reserves, and many more.

Thus, an auto app is the most effective way to interact with your clients by providing them with accurate and concise information, you can promptly answer their most commonly asked questions. And with the incremental number of mobile apps related to cars and driving in mind, one should nevertheless strive to be the first in his industry to offer potential customers the precious information like for instance Neo App Suite App developed by Elinext Group. Elinext Group developed this mobile application for Android phones and the iPhone that provides users with the possibility to communicate with hands free car kit using Bluetooth connection of their phones.

The moral of the story is that a modern-day driver among other things expects to be safe, comfortable, timely informed, and with his favorite apps at his fingertips. So it’s up to everyone to decide either to ignore auto apps and lag behind, or to make your auto dealership more popular by creating a quality app which will differentiate you from your competitors, find your prospective customers and help turn their interest into your actual sales.

We won’t be surprised if in the nearest future customers will be much more worried about how they can plug in their smartphones or iPhones and bring their lives into their car than about horsepower of their cars. And definitely automakers respond very fast to such modern tendencies. Anyway, despite a number of existing auto apps, the most exciting ones, of course, will be those that neither us nor the car industry have thought about yet.

Elinext Group mobile applications:

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nPassword Case Study

Industries and Technology Areas:

Industries: automotive

Technology Areas: mobile application development, iOS, Android

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