• March 15, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

AutoTrader.com Integrates Live Chat Solution

AutoTrader.com, a Web site listing millions of new and used cars for sale, has added live chat functionality that links dealers who list their cars for sale on the site with potential customers. The chat software is provided by Contact At Once!.

The text-based chat window that accompanies a car listing can display the name and photo of actual dealership employees and the customer just has to click on the link to initiate a chat session. The dealer live chat solution is also presence-aware, so consumers will only be prompted to initiate a chat session if a representative is available. Additionally, the Contact At Once! dealer live chat solution enables dealers to conduct chats via their iPads, smartphones, or other mobile devices, so dealers can be responsive to consumer inquiries even when they're not at their desks.

"Faster than email and more convenient than a phone call, online chat enables consumers to get instant answers to their questions while enabling dealers to begin creating a relationship with shoppers before they show up on the lot," said AutoTrader.com president and CEO Chip Perry in a statement. "We are pleased with the performance of the Contact At Once! dealer live chat platform and excited about the value it has already brought both dealers and consumers."

Autotrader.com conducted months of pilot testing with the chat solution, and early value tests showed that dealers that added live chat to their listings experienced an average lift in shopper interaction of about 20 percent. And with more than 15 million unique monthly visitors who use AutoTrader.com., that’s a significant number of transactions.

Contact At Once already lists Acura Certified Pre-Owned Cars, BMW, Cars.com, and CarsDirect.com among its clients. Of the 22,000 auto dealers in the country, 15.8 percent currently have chat capabilities connected to their Web sites. Those numbers are expected to climb now that AutoTrader.com is on board.

“AutoTrader.com is a major influence in the industry, and when someone the size of them does something, it’s something to take seriously,” says Aaron Hassen, director of marketing at Contact At Once!

The chat feature, Hassen adds, is particularly useful considering the car buying patterns of the American consumer. Many people shopping for a car do so online during work and might not be able to use the company phones or email for personal calls, but they can chat via a Web site, he explains.

“When a customer comes to the site, wherever he goes to find the car, he likes the instant opportunity to connect with the dealership,” Hassen says.

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