Motorcycle dealers respond to website leads as quickly as car dealers now: study

Harley-Davidson dealerships ranked highest in the 2022 Pied Piper PSI Internet Lead Effectiveness (ILE) Motorcycle/UTV Industry Study, which measured responsiveness to internet leads coming through dealership websites – behaviors tied directly to retail sales success. Dealers selling Indian motorcycles were ranked second, followed by Polaris side-by-side dealers.

“Quick response to web customers is critical to selling, placing an order, or building the foundation for future sales,” said Fran O’Hagan, CEO of Pied Piper. “Dealers who respond quickly, personally and completely to website customer inquiries on average sell 50% more vehicles to their web customers as opposed to dealers who fail to respond.”

Dealers for four of the top scoring brands - Harley-Davidson, Indian, Polaris and Can-Am - not only scored well in 2022, but also have dramatically improved their web response behaviors over time. Over the past five years, dealers for those four brands have on average more than doubled how often they answer web customer questions by email or text, from 27% of the time in 2018 to 59% of the time in 2022.

Industry average ILE performance increased three points to 43, the industry’s highest average score to date. This year for the first time, dealers for two brands - Harley-Davidson and Indian - performed better, on average, than typical car dealers, who in general began focusing on web customers years before powersports dealers.

On the other hand, the study also shows that many powersports brands are still not paying enough attention to poor dealer web response, or aren't doing anything effective to fix it. The performance for 11 brands declined over the past year.

“Poor performance of declining dealers can be partly attributed to the complacency that comes from recent low inventories,” said O’Hagan. “However, slacking off – compared to responding and building relationships with customers, especially local customers – could result in multiple lost sales for years to come, especially once inventory levels improve.”

Pied Piper submitted customer inquiries through the individual websites of 8,859 dealerships, asking a specific question about a vehicle in inventory, and providing a customer name, email address and local telephone number. Pied Piper then evaluated how the dealerships responded by email, telephone, and text message over the next 24 hours. ILE evaluation of a dealership aggregates 20 different measurements to create a total score, between 0 and 100.

To be clear, each brand’s industry study ILE score is an average, including top-performing dealers as well as poor performers. In a traditional bell curve of performance, 22% of all dealerships industrywide scored above 70 (providing a quick and thorough personal response), while 42% of dealerships scored below 30 (failing to personally respond to their website customers). By comparison, for the top scoring Harley-Davidson brand, 45% of their dealers scored above 70, while only 19% scored below 30.

Other notable industrywide trends in behavior over the past year include the following:

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• Dealerships were more likely to email an answer to a website customer’s inquiry – 48% of the time, compared to 39% of the time by phone and 17% by text. But texting is on the rise: Two years ago, dealers responded by text a mere 3% of the time.

• Customer spam filters are a dealership’s enemy. Emails landed in a customer’s junk mail folder more than 25% of the time for Zero, CFMoto, Moto Guzzi, Royal Enfield, BMW, Aprilia, Honda, Husqvarna and Yanmar dealers. Dealers representing brands that fared the best in avoiding spam filters: Polaris, Can-Am, Indian and Harley-Davidson – all less than 10% of the time.

• One in 10 of all dealerships contacted failed to respond in any way to the study’s website customer inquiries. In an era when powersports shoppers largely use the Internet to initiate first contact with a dealer, a non-response is equivalent to a lost sale.

Response to customer web inquiries varied by brand and dealership:

• How often did the brand’s dealerships email or text an answer to a website customer’s question within 30 minutes?

O More than 25% of the time on average: Harley-Davidson, Indian, KTM, Polaris

O Less than 15% of the time on average: Tracker, Bobcat, Kubota, Zero, Kymco, John Deere, Cub Cadet, CFMoto

• How often did the brand’s dealerships use a text message to answer a website customer’s inquiry?

O More than 30% of the time on average: Harley-Davidson, Indian

O Less than 1% of the time on average: Tracker, Yanmar, Bobcat, Cub Cadet, Kubota

• How often did the brand’s dealerships respond by phone to a website customer’s inquiry?

O More than 35% of the time on average: Harley-Davidson, Indian, Suzuki, Triumph, Polaris, Royal Enfield, KTM, Can-Am, BMW

O Less than 10% of the time on average: Kioti, Cub Cadet, Yanmar, Club Car

• Although not part of ILE scoring, Pied Piper also measured dealer-website responsiveness to a site’s chat function (if offered). How often did a “human” respond to a customer question within 30 seconds?

O More than 55% of the time on average: Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Bobcat, Suzuki

O Less than 25% of the time on average: John Deere, Royal Enfield, CFMoto, Club Car, HiSun, Triumph