Digital retailing is a powerful lead channel to reach more shoppers and sell more cars – if you do it right. Remember that a successful strategy includes the right tools, promotions, processes,...

Digital retailing is a powerful lead channel to reach more shoppers and sell more cars – if you do it right. Remember that a successful strategy includes the right tools, promotions, processes, and support.

Think about the last time you ordered something from Amazon. It was so easy, right?

All digital retailing solutions are not created equal.

The company’s algorithms created a unique experience just for you. They pulled up what you searched for, suggested alternative or additional products, and even displayed your recent purchases in case you wanted to order again. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, your order likely showed up within a day. One day!

This is the online shopping experience every auto dealer is up against. Customers have been conditioned to expect an always-connected experience where technology smooths out and speeds up purchasing. And they are easily frustrated when you don’t create the experience they’ve come to expect.

Obviously, you can’t deliver an experience exactly like Amazon. The car-buying process is not as simple as placing a vehicle in an online shopping cart and paying with a credit card. While most shoppers want to complete some of the purchase steps online, the vast majority still prefer to see it in person, take it for a test-drive, and sign the final documents at the dealership. 

But you’re still on the hook to create a personal, connected, and transparent online buying experience where customers can complete as many of the steps online as they want, and complete the purchase in-store at their convenience. 

Many of today’s customers will choose another dealership if your digital retailing tools and strategy can’t deliver. The following tactics will help your dealership craft the experience customers expect and grow your online channel so you gain more business. 

Analyze your digital retailing tools.

All digital retailing solutions are not created equal. The best tools deliver constant interaction between your customers and the system, so managers can oversee the process and not lose control to third party competitors.

If your software isn’t offering penny-perfect calculations, it’s just not good enough. It should include state and local taxes and fees, as well as the customer’s credit score in the final price . This ensures there are no surprises in-store that could make the buyer lose trust in your dealership. 

You also never want to waste your customers’ time. If a customer has to repeat steps they already completed online when they walk into your showroom, you’re not providing a good experience. You should be able to seamlessly synchronize your digital and showroom CRM and desking software, so that what happens online shows up in-store.

Your trade-in tools should include the ability for customers to upload photos and condition information. And don’t forget integration with F&I products and options. Customers have been shown to purchase more F&I products when they can research options on their own time without the store pressure to make a quick decision.

The most advanced platforms with the highest ROI also include consumer behavior tracking technology, so you can follow what your customers are researching in real-time. These shopping intelligence insights drive more informed and personal conversations, both online and in your store.

Promote with multi-channel marketing.

Shoppers can’t use your tools if they don’t know you have them. Advertise your online presence on your website and everywhere buyers are, including Google, social media, and authentic customer review sites.

Be sure to embed digital retailing tools into your inventory pages. This makes shopping more seamless and delivers a consistent experience with your brand.

Click-to-call buttons mean many customers still pick up the phone when they have questions. Make personnel available to answer the phone and help customers along the entire journey. You can also leverage a virtual BDC to ensure calls are answered without overburdening your staff.

Set up your staff for success.

Digital retailing shoppers need nurturing, not a hard sell. Since customers who complete purchase steps online are much further along in the shopping process, they’ve likely researched extensively and already know a lot about their vehicle of interest.

They want your staff to be highly knowledgeable about all aspects of that vehicle and provide answers in a low-pressure environment. Pushing an appointment when the customer simply wants inventory or pricing answers sends the impression that your store is aggressive or hard to work with. That’s when buyers will eliminate your store from consideration – and place a call to your competition.  

The goal is to create rapport and a relationship, and this is why successful dealerships have created new sales models specifically to address digital retailing.

One model involves a professional, higher-grade salesperson who handles every aspect of the process and deal, including F&I.

The other offers a product specialist who nurtures the customer online until the buyer is ready to come into the store. Then, that customer is transferred to a manager who transacts the entire deal in one sitting.

All sales personnel benefit from digital retailing tools that tie customer activity and interactions back to your CRM. This gives a 360-degree view of a customer’s wants, needs, and interests, making the sales conversation better informed and more personal.  

Consider 24-hour follow-up and support.

Digital retailing effectively means your store is open 24/7. Your support and lead management should be, too.

Asking and paying for your internal BDC to work nights may be a stretch. Your best bet is to utilize an external BDC and lead management tools.

External BDC representatives are specifically trained for automotive and can be available around-the-clock. You’ll spend up to 30% less than on an internal BDC for 24x7 coverage compared to 12x7 coverage. Quick answers to customer questions give you a leg up over competitors who work traditional dealership hours.

Digital retailing is a powerful lead channel to reach more shoppers and sell more cars – if you do it right. Remember that a successful strategy includes the right tools, promotions, processes, and support. This type of holistic approach creates the experience shoppers expect, so you can grow your virtual store and gain more business.  

Bill Wittenmyer is vice president of Sales, Layered Apps and Competitive Accounts at CDK Global.