Chances are, your dealership has been leaning into digital and contactless services more than ever in order to sell more cars during the ongoing Covid crisis. Online financing, virtual walkarounds, home delivery, and more — resilient dealers have adopted many of these digital retail tactics in order to keep business going. It makes sense because the majority of buyers are used to leveraging online resources: 78% of car shoppers say online tools and resources make them a smarter shopper.
Ultimately, digital retail is about giving shoppers the transparency and control they want, when they want it. So, how do you build a successful strategy? Use these steps as a guide.
The idea might start with you, but your digital retail efforts won't be successful without buy-in from your entire team. From the sales staff working the leads to the marketing team advertising your services, to the GM signing the contract, everyone at your dealership needs to be on board. A bit of self-interest is key to getting people on board, so focus on:
Once your team is committed, map out your dealership's path to digital retail success. This includes everything from setting priorities and assessing existing processes to creating goals and establishing benchmarks. But don't stop there: make sure you provide a clear picture of what specific actions and behaviors are needed to achieve success. Once your roadmap is defined, you'll be ready to start your dealership's journey into digital retail.
Digital retail isn't an all-or-nothing proposition that means a shopper can click a buy button on your website and have a car show up in their driveway. In fact, it's best to start small, then expand your offerings as your comfort increases. According to our recent Consumer Sentiment study, shoppers are more likely to prefer online financing (52%) than completing the full transaction online (41%), so enabling online financing might be a good starting point. This could be as simple as providing a calculator for those who just want to know what their payments will be before going to the dealership, or it could mean letting buyers complete all of the financing paperwork online before they come into the dealership to complete the sale.
Enabling online financing is relatively easy to implement with the help of your existing lenders and third-party sites, and you can do it without giving up any of your backend profits. Additional benefits for your dealership include:
There are many vendors, including us at CarGurus as well as AutoFi, DealerSocket, Modal, and more, that can help you expand your digital retail offerings and take your efforts to the next level. Not only will using a vendor allow you to add digital sales components more quickly – for example, instant trade valuations or home delivery – but it will also provide a partner to help you with processes. As you try vendors out, look for one that offers things like training for sales staff or reporting and tracking tools to see how digital retail is impacting your bottom line.
Keep in mind, you don't have to do everything at once. Your digital retail strategy will probably look different from another dealership's — and that's okay.
Doing what you've always done is no longer enough. By laying the groundwork now, you'll avoid future disruption down the road and set your dealership up for success.
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With over 20 years of digital marketing experience, Jeremy has worked through multiple waves of innovation and evolution in connecting buyers and sellers, focusing on the common thread of effective communication in new platforms and old. As director of B2B content and communications at CarGurus, Jeremy leads messaging and content production across all dealer-facing marketing activities. Prior to CarGurus, he managed content marketing at Fiksu DSP, a mobile ad tech company, and BuyerZone (now part of Purch), a B2B lead gen provider.
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