Benfield Motors planning digital investment to increase competitiveness

Motor retailer Benfield are beefing up their online offering - despite already winning an award for their website

North News & Pictures ltd Chief executive of Benfield Motor Group Mark Squires
Chief executive of Benfield Motor Group Mark Squires

Embracing digital technology is a must for all global business, as a driving force for global commerce.

Benfield Motor Group have already made heavy investments into their online offering, through a detailed website and smartphone app, but chief executive Mark Squires said the company, which employs 1,300 staff across 38 North East dealerships, is planning further digital developments.

Earlier this week the business, headquartered in Newcastle, announced a strong set of financial results, with turnover topping £622.4m for 2013 – a rise of 15% year on year – and pre-tax profits more than doubling to £7.3m.

Consumer confidence has been on the rise for the last two years, with new car retail sales rising 10.77% in the last year as drivers seek to upgrade their vehicles.

Squires believes sales will remain buoyant but that current sales rates will eventually plateau, putting pressure on motor retailers to increase customer experience by ensuring, amongst other things, their website functionality can respond to online consumer demand.

In response, the company is to completely rebuild into current website – despite it having garnered an award.

Last month Benfield won a national consumer award as the overall winners of the Best Desktop website in the motor industry Autotrader ‘Click’ Awards.

The Click awards share trends, behaviours and opinions within the automotive industry and are based on independent research by HPI Research – and those trends show more than two thirds of all searches on autotrader.co.uk are made between 6pm and 11pm with more than half of visitors using mobile and tablet devices.

Squires said: “Customers are increasingly doing research online before they come to us, and we are very proud of our digital capability. For instance, we were voted best desktop website in the motor industry Autotrader Awards, which is voted for by the customers.

“Over the next 12 months we will make considerable strides within the marketing of our business.

“We are just about to make a marketing director appointment, and changes are also being made to our website.

“Not content with the fact that we won the best desktop website award, we are completely rebuilding our website. We’re going to adapt it for smart phones and tablets and do a lot more within after sales using our electronic CRM.

“We already have two mobile apps that have really easy functionality that customers can use to find new and used cars.”

He added: “I think the market has enjoyed a lot of growth over the last 12 months but we expect it can’t carry on growing at the kind of rate of growth we are seeing; it will begin to top out.

“But sales have now returned to the levels we were enjoying back in 2005 before the recession, a time of prosperity.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer