How to get the Right Digital Retailing Platform for Your Dealership

Technology is amazing. Anyone who has spent more time at home this past year is well aware of the incredible tool, distraction, resource, and entertainment that digital tech can be. New digital technology is so good, in fact, that we have come to expect effortless utility of all new technologies. And that’s a problem.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve seen dozens of new digital solutions materialize in the dealer space. Each one effectively promises the same thing: do more online with our plug-and-play widget. So why is this a problem? As technology makes cars more autonomous by the month, why is it so hard to believe that a piece of tech can turn your dealership into an online showroom overnight?

It’s not as simple as plug-and-play

Let’s look at what makes cars autonomous. It’s not as simple as updating your 2005 Camry with a quick ECU flash for instant self-driving luxury. Autonomous cars, even in their current not-quite-autonomous form, are the product of years of research, trial, error, and improvement. Even now, the best “self-driving” cars still need human oversight and frequent software patches to keep them on the right track.

Selling cars online, autonomous or otherwise, is no different. Much as we’d love to believe it, there’s no simple tool that instantly turns your traditional dealership website into a high-conversion online showroom. Just like autopilot, digital retailing takes a degree of effort to generate results.

It’s easier than it sounds

Don’t worry, I’m not saying that good digital retailing will keep you up at night. There’s no code to tweak, and it’s an easy way to generate high-quality, low-effort leads—once it’s up and running.

That’s the key. Your dealership is different than the one across the street, or another in a different town entirely. You need a solution that is complex enough to support your unique needs, and simple enough to make your life easier every day. And that requires a custom-tailored implementation process.

This isn’t what you get with simple, widget-based online tools. The implementation might be easy, but the results are reflective of the effort you put in. Your customers want to shop online, and that means a sophisticated digital system that recreates the entire dealership experience. They need something they can dive into.

The right platform comes with the right people

Have I made this all sound very complicated? It’s not—rather, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to be a tech expert to get the best digital retailing implementation, because the best solutions have their own experts.

You’re not expected to be a digital retailing genius. All you have to do is find good, omnichannel digital retailing provider who has a dedicated genius set aside to work with you, to learn your dealership, and to guide your success. As long as you make the effort to work with this person, your determination will be rewarded with higher-quality leads, better closing rates, and easier sales.

Selling online is no different than working out of a dealership; the infrastructure and processes take a bit of time and effort to create, but those efforts guarantee your continued success.

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at

Interested? Get the latest insights to stay ahead of the competition:

Do your customers really want to shop online?

Our friends at J.D. Power recently released a report that provides some detailed and intriguing insights on consumer behaviour, and the impact the pandemic has had on the people you’re counting on to buy cars. At a first glance, the report seems to say the exact opposite of what you’d expect: a decline in consumer appetite for an online purchase.

But hold on, haven’t I been saying for years that digital retailing is the future? And didn’t consumers and dealers alike adopt digital shopping tools almost overnight in response to the pandemic? The J.D. Power findings seem to run contrary to everything we’ve heard from within and without our industry about this “new normal.”

Let’s look more closely, though, because the report goes in-depth on the specifics of your customers’ desires, and it’s something you should absolutely not overlook.

According to the report, anywhere from 37 to 51 per cent of car buyers expressed strong intention to complete individual steps of the purchase online. It varies from step to step, of course, but what the numbers show is certain: customers want to shop your dealership online, they just can’t agree on how.

The good news is that they don’t have to. Long before digital retailing became a necessity in the automotive industry due to COVID, it was clear that flexible digital retailing was the only meaningful way forward. Rigid, predefined online purchase pathways offered the promise of a shiny digital future, but delivered platforms that only appealed to a select few consumers – and only ever would.

This is the importance of a true onmi-channel digital retailing solution. Sure, only 33 per cent of those surveyed by J.D. Power said they would “probably or definitely complete all aspects of purchasing a new vehicle online,” but nearly half said they would be interested in placing a deposit from their computers. By offering no digital solution or an online-only purchase tool, dealers stand to lose the 46 per cent of customers who want what we all want: choice.

Just like everyone wants something a little different in a new car, everyone who walks into your showroom or visits your dealership has a different and unique set of priorities when it comes to the purchase itself. Some people need to hear the sales pitch in person, but are more than happy to go home and place a deposit online. Other customers want to do their own research, but need to look you in the eye before opening their wallets.

Flexible omnichannel is what makes that a possibility, and what appeals to the 77 per cent of consumers who, according to J.D. Power, aren’t quite ready to do everything online just yet. When you empower your consumers with the freedom and transparency to choose what parts of the sale to do when – and where – you create the purchase environment they’ve been asking for since before social distancing.

When the world gets back to normal – or at least, “new normal” – consumer expectations are likely to change again. And they’ll keep on changing and shifting, as they always have. But with flexible digital retailing, you don’t need to know exactly what your customers want; you can give them the best tools available, and let them show you.

Source: 2020 Canada COVID-19 Pulse Webinar_Wave 6 June 3-July 1, J.D. Power

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at

Interested? Get the latest insights to stay ahead of the competition:

Car Dealership Advertising Strategies that Work: Our Top Digital Lead Generation Tactics

Advertising might not be the single most important thing your dealership does, but how much do your merchandising or customer experience matter if nobody hears about them?

That might seem like a bit of a bleak outlook, considering how much time and effort go into building a truly top-notch dealership. But consumers these days aren’t visiting every dealership in the area for shoptalk and test drives; instead, customers are doing their research online before visiting the one or two dealerships that really stand out.

To increase your lead volumes and close more deals, you need a new advertising strategy that reflects the way people approach their automotive purchases. So what does that mean for your dealership? Here are our top digital lead generation tactics, and a clear roadmap for turning them into a cohesive dealership advertising strategy.

Before we dive into the specifics, here are some dealership advertising best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Go digital. Your focus should be digital – it’s where your customers are. Physical advertising can still help promote awareness, but digital is what gets leads.
  2. Keep your branding consistent. Colours, logo, voice, and even font face should all be identical across all channels, accounts, and platforms wherever possible.
  3. Simplify and align your messaging. Choose a clear CTA that can be leveraged on every channel, including your website.
  4. Centralize your strategy. Your dealership website is your strongest resource, so all advertising should lead back to it.
  5. Revamp your website. The stronger your website, the better your leads will convert. Implement a digital retailing solution to turn your website into a lead gen. machine.

Where are your customers?

As we alluded to above, your customers have gone digital. According to a recent Kijiji research report, barely half of shoppers used ANY offline resource at all in deciding where and what to buy. By stark contrast, 88% used online resources to guide their purchases.

A full 60% of buyers relied on the dealership website, making it the single most important resource in the purchase journey. Online classifieds, manufacturer ‘sites, and web searches each represented 30% to 40% of buyers, but nothing dominates the purchase decision like your own website.

This means that your most successful advertising strategy will be one that drives traffic to your dealership website. According to the same Kijiji report, 84% of consumers spend more than half their time researching online, so go where your customers are. Focus on digital.

Start by evaluating your advertising channels. Some people like to discuss the merits of display versus search advertising, but both are necessary for a successful dealership advertising strategy.

How to design social media & display ads

Facebook is your best channel for display ads. Everyone has Facebook, so a few well-tailored display ads are guaranteed to get your dealership in front of potential buyers. In our experience, the best way to get high quality leads from social media advertising is to have a simple value proposition and CTA, which links to a custom SRP on a digital retailing platform.

READ: What is Digital Retailing, and How Will it Affect Your Dealership?

Something like “Buy your next car online at DEALERSHIP! Click to build your deal,” offers clear value and expectations for your audience, and by linking into a custom SRP (2020 Corolla hatchbacks, for instance), you’re placing potential customers in the first step of their purchase.

If this SRP is part of a digital retailing platform, then the lead in question has all the tools to start understanding and navigating the purchase on their own, increasing the likelihood that they’ll carry on with the process.

How to build search advertisements

The targeting and segmentation on search ads isn’t the hard part. As long as you’re going after relevant terms that are related to the research and discovery stage of the purchase, your ads will land in front of the right people.

The tricky part is standing out. This is where a USP (unique selling proposition) shows its worth: instead of stating the availability of a relevant vehicle at your dealership, lead with what makes you special. Again, digital retailing is a valuable asset here, allowing you to create ads that promote the customers’ ability to “Shop online for your new 2020 Ford F-150!”

Other USPs could be your ability to bring the car to your customer’s house for a test drive, or your 90-day, 500-kilometre return policy. Regardless, lead with what makes you different.

What else can you do?

Search and display ads are two of the simplest ways to drive massive increases in lead generation. There’s always more you can do, though. It’s a great idea to leverage social media, even if you don’t see much lead generation potential there.

Instagram is unlikely to become a major lead source for you, but it helps humanize your dealership and your team. Take great photos of your inventory, happy customers, and cheerful team members to show potential customers how welcoming and genuine you are.

Your Facebook account is even more important. Display ads are a powerful lead source, but what you can also build a stronger brand identity just by keeping your dealership’s Facebook page active with the latest incentives, events, and pictures from your dealership. The more visible you are, the better.

To get the most out of your dealership advertising dollars, you’ll need a digital retailing platform. As we mentioned, this gives your customers the ability to do more and even begin selling the car to themselves immediately after they click on your digital ad. It takes less involvement from your team, and you get higher quality leads. Learn more about digital retailing by seeing it in action!

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at

Interested? Get the latest insights to stay ahead of the competition: