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The CRM Paradox


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Article Highlights

  1. The value and reliability of CRM data is contingent upon the quality and accuracy of the information entered into the system. Dealers should emphasize the value and importance of CRM input among users as a critical component to the success of the business and establish training and processes that seek to improve the integrity of their CRM data.
  2. CRM tools significantly underestimate the value of online advertising. When surveyed, car buyers cited the Internet as a source of influence three-and-a-half times more frequently than CRM data depicted, while third-party automotive sites were cited over four-and-a-half times more often than CRM systems reflected.
  3. For dealers looking to their CRM reporting to demonstrate what advertising is most effective and valuable for influencing car shoppers, inaccurate or missing data can be costly and may translate into missed marketing and sales opportunities with in-market car shoppers.

Customer relationship management (CRM) automotive system data often depicts a contrary account of car-buying behavior than behavioral research shows. In an attempt to better understand this disparity, an independent market research firm compared proprietary CRM data from select partner companies with post-purchase survey research of 4,700 car buyers, and the results were staggering.


Autotrader commissioned KS&R, a third-party market research firm based in Syracuse, N.Y., to conduct post-purchase survey research among car buyers who purchased from Autotrader dealer customers to understand what sources car buyers used while shopping for their vehicles. Car buyers were interviewed from April 2010 through November 2011. The dealerships included in the post-purchase survey research during this time period were cross-referenced in April 2012 with CRM customers from select partner companies to identify dealerships common to both, resulting in 4,700 car buyers among 42 dealerships across the U.S. Subsequently, KS&R matched dealers’ CRM records to car buyers’ survey responses, offering a true, one-to-one comparison of CRM documentation to real shopping activities as stated by the actual car buyer. It is important to note, though, that no personally identifiable information (PII) was used during this analysis.

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