ASK TORY: Should We Invest in Having an App for the Dealership?

Tory Hornsby | 04/29/2016

I’m frequently asked by dealers if they should invest in an app for their dealership. Apps entered the marketing scene and became an instant fad, and many dealers jumped on the bandwagon. Dealers heard that other dealers had an app, so they started thinking they needed one too. I mean, if another dealer shows you up, you have to copy them, right? Wrong.  Before I jump in too far, let’s go over what an app is and make sure we’re all singing off the same sheet of music. 


App is short for application, which is a software written most often to be used on mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc.). Of course we’ve all heard the saying, “there’s an app for that,” and we’ve all downloaded plenty of apps from the App Store on Apple devices, and from Google Play on Android devices.


There can be big money in creating apps, so it didn’t take long for software developers to build cookie-cutter apps with simple functionality that they could sell to small businesses. Powersports dealers were targeted as well. 


If you’re wondering what they do, you’re not alone.  That’s the first question I asked as well. The sales pitch on dealer apps:


1. You can send Push Notifications to your customer’s phone and alert them of special events and promotions.


2. Your current inventory will always be in your customer’s pocket. It’s a feed from your website, so no additional work is required to load it.


3.Customers can watch a unit and be notified of price changes.



4. Apps build loyalty with customers and you stay in front of them more and create ToMA (Top of Mind Awareness).


5. It includes a button to call your dealership, and easy directions.


6. You can schedule a visit to the Service Department. 


Now for the second question I asked… “Why would a customer download it?”


Let’s go through the numbered points above and see if they are a good reason why the app should be downloaded.  


1. Hey Mr. Customer, download our app so we can send push notifications to your phone!

  • Most customers will say “No thanks.”

  • Of the small percentage of customers who download the app, most will uninstall it once you start sending push notifications to their phone.

  • For many people, cell phone communication is more intimate, meaning it’s primarily for communicating with family and friends. 


2. Hey Mr. Customer, download our app so you can have instant access to our current inventory!

  • I have trouble answering the question… “Why wouldn’t I just go to your website for that?”

3.Hey Mr. Customer, download our app so you can watch bikes/units you’re interested in and be notified of price reductions.

  • This could actually get you some downloads, but it’s based on waiting for a discount, and someone will have to manage the pricing of the inventory (keep in mind you can’t lower prices on new inventory for some OEMs). 

  • This sounds like a great benefit, but I’ve yet to see this be truly successful because the app is deleted soon after being installed.


4. Loyalty is a great dealership benefit, but customers won’t download the app for this reason.


5. When a person needs to call a business, or needs directions, they search for them on Google. They don’t try to find the business’ app on their phone.


6. It seems clumsy to have a customer download your app to schedule service. And if they already had the app, when they need service most folks won’t remember your app, they’ll do a Google search and call you.


We’ve done business with over 700 dealers and 2 of them have said they’ve had success with their app. They couldn’t quantify that success, except through the number of times the app had been downloaded.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how many of those customers had uninstalled the app after downloading it.


At the end of the day, you and your team only have so much time and budget. I recommend not jumping on every bright and shiny product that comes along. Choose wisely what you spend your limited resources on. It’s better to be ‘Narrow and Deep’ over ‘Wide and Shallow’.


For more information, visit or call 1-877-242-4472 and ask for me.