GMC releases free shopping app for smart phone

Consider it a sign of the times. As 50 percent of smart phone owners use their devices as a shopping tool, GMC is releasing a new app so smart phone users can shop, research and configure a GMC vehicle via the GMC Showroom Mobile App whenever the urge strikes.
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There's a bit of a strange twist, though, from an automotive marketing perspective to this story. Ford is touting its SYNCH system with hands-free, voice-activated app engagements while driving. Which story grabs your attention more? A shopping app or a hands-free-driving use of an app?

Still, the value of a shopping app by any automaker makes sense, especially from an auto-shopper perspective. According to a survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, more than 50 percent of consumers polled said they use their smart phones to assist them with shopping.

The free app from GMC allows shoppers to perform research activities such as exploring vehicle photos or videos, configuring a GMC vehicle to their specifications or reviewing competitive comparisons.

According to the GM news release, popular shopping tools like locating a vehicle within local dealer inventories, requesting a quote, scheduling a dealer test drive or viewing current offers are also available.

Fact is, more than 100 million smart phones were sold globally in the first quarter of 2011. That’s an 85 percent year-over-year increase, according to the Gartner Mobile Marketing Watch.

Furthermore, smart phone sales are expected to grow 55 percent this year over last, and are predicted to nearly double by the end of 2015, according to analysis firm IDC.

“We recognize that smart phones play an important role in our customers’ lives, including purchase decisions,” said John Schwegman, U.S. vice president of GMC marketing. “The new GMC Showroom App provides our customers with the advanced technology they have come to expect of the GMC brand and the convenience to easily engage with their GMC dealer.”

The GMC Showroom App is available from the Apple® App Store and scheduled for release on the Android Market by the end of July. It is designed to be compatible with the iPhone® ions 3.1 or better, and any Android phone 1.6 OS or better (excluding Honeycomb).

Additional details about device compatibility can be found inside the user’s guide, along with step-by-step instructions for downloading, installing and operating the app’s features.

Torque News Reporter Assessment

After my experiences last week at Ford’s Research Center, it seems General Motors is playing catch up to Ford’s Synch when it comes to mobile telematics. It is unfortunate there is no marketing mention of using the GMC app except to search for a GMC vehicle. The release failed to even mention anything hands-free within a GM vehicle while driving. Now, which is more important, shopping or hands-free driving?

After all, GM has a sure winner in OnStar, but seems unable or unwilling in touting or associating it with apps for hands-free driving. Using the blue OnStar button, the white Hands-Free Calling button and the red Emergency button, all located on the vehicle’s rearview mirror, OnStar customers are a touch away from a range of life-saving and convenience services. That's a giant positive.

My guess is, GM wants in on the app game; and GMC's best entry is a sales app? While, I do not assume this app should qualify for hands-free access, GMC's marketing promotions appear way behind Ford, in my opinion. GMC has more to offer besides a sales app, but fails to mention it or connect with it. That's a marketing paradigm flaw if there ever was one. No, GMC prefers the next lesser thing - shop til you drop using their app as focus for a media release.

Point is, for all the marketing heads and hoopla at GM, this latest app by GMC is merely a sales tool to benefit them more than you the driver of one of their vehicles. It surely doesn’t really address the car-driving issue of hands-free driving, and wasn't intended to. However, one would think linking the media release to OnStar features would at least punch harder at the Ford marketing drive.

Granted, anyone can shop from home or while sitting at a coffee shop. But this is a car company. So, the question is, where's the car connection besides shopping for one? It seems to me that GM, by its own marketing omissions, is admitting it’s behind Ford in the telematics promotion game.

[Photo Source: media.gm.com]

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About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: [email protected]
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