What is automotive digital retailing, and how will it affect your dealership in 2022?

Everything you need to know about automotive digital retail

What does digital retailing mean for your car dealership? Automotive digital retailing is your dealership’s most powerful new tool, and it’s going to bring you into a shiny new future. More engagement, more sales, less work: keep reading to see how it’s done.

Digital retailing is the all-in-one sales process that makes it easier and more exciting for customers to shop for cars at your dealership. Done right, automotive digital retailing ties your physical and digital processes into one seamless experience that can be navigated in any direction, no matter how many times your customers want to jump from internet to showroom and back again.

This article will show you all there is to know about digital retailing, but if you’re already familiar, check out some of our other resources for making the most of your shiny new digital retailing platform:

what is digital retailing

Automotive digital retailing: what it is, and what it isn’t

Digital retailing isn’t digital marketing. It’s not your Facebook page, or your online inventory. Digital retailing is the customer’s ability to go deeper into the car buying process online. It’s the future of how cars will be bought and sold, and it’s ready today.1 But first, let’s get some context.

In 2000, car buyers visited an average of five dealerships before pulling the trigger.2 Today, you’re lucky if a customer visits two dealerships during their search. Your customers know what they want to buy and where they want to buy it long before they show up at your door. Consumers are in search of a different way to buy cars, and the dealership is going to play a very different role.

If it feels like the internet is pulling control from your dealership and limiting your influence in the car buying process, you’re not wrong. Your sales team has fewer chances to interact with their customers, and when they do finally get face-time, key decisions have already been made under the influence of content on the internet.3 Dealers are losing control, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Where does this leave me?

The challenge is to find a way to make sure it’s your dealership people are engaging with from home. The internet has altered the automotive consumer landscape, and your sales team can’t change that by pushing harder. In fact, pushy sales tactics are the last thing customers want. They know your dealership exists, and they know how to find you. When they want to come in and talk, they will – you don’t need to tell them to.

That’s where we circle back to digital retailing. For over a decade, customers have been shopping online; it’s the new norm. Not only that, but consumers are more informed than ever, and they’re comparing their digital experiences across industries. Customers want to buy a car the way they buy every other product.

See how digital trends in other industries are shaping your dealership’s customers.

Think about the last time you emailed Amazon asking for a price on that pair of headphones you wanted. Or when you filled out a multi-page form to request an Uber. We’ll save you some time – it has never happened. Yet these are the conditions customers have to navigate to purchase a car. Amazon deemed their already streamlined checkout process too clunky, and now offers “1-Click Ordering”. Traditional car buying practices simply can’t compete.

Omni-channel digital retailing is more effective

The best digital retailing solutions are omni-channel. Omni-channel is the central solution that integrates your customers’ online and in-store experiences across every touchpoint. A true omni-channel digital retailing platform erases the rough transitions where you lose customers, and keeps leads involved and interested no matter how they want to shop.

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The online options and format were easy to use and understand. I was able to research all of my options and even calculate finance and lease payment possibilities to help narrow down my search. I would definitely use this tool again in the future.

Lindsay M. | NewRoads Customer & MotoCommerce User

From the outset, you control how your leads interact with your brand and your inventory. You can funnel people to a general inventory page, or to a specific model you’re trying to push. From there, your customers have complete control over the process – but this time, it’s different.

Each step builds on the last, allowing the users to lead themselves deeper into an experience that you own. That lets you reach your customers directly instead of waiting around for them to find time for you while they make decisions on their own. No emails or phone calls required – go grab a coffee.

omnichannel graphic

One digital retailing solution for every customer

The real power of your digital retailing solution is that it lets your customers engage exactly how they want. Some people are in a rush to offload their trade-in, secure financing, and pull the trigger; they can do all of that in an hour from any device, and simply show up at the dealership to sign the dotted line and grab the keys.

Other people need time to think. You know the type: they’re going to buy the car eventually, but they really need to sell themselves on the commitment first. The omni-channel solution gives these clients the flexibility to explore all their financing, configuration, trade-in, and delivery options without subjecting your team to hours of repeated questions and circular conversations.

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We’re working with customers who expect perfection in all areas of their lives, and MotoCommerce brings that to their car purchases – no matter what “perfection” looks like to each individual. Genesis Markham is committed to a purchase experience that matches the caliber of our cars both in quality and consistency, and I believe we’ve achieved exactly that.

Chris Han | GXM, Genesis Markham

No matter what type of customer you’re dealing with, they ultimately end up at your dealership. Once they’ve identified their preferred dealerships, four out of five buyers jump repeatedly between internet and showroom.4 With a fluid omni-channel digital retailing experience, they can bounce between your website and your dealership as many times as they want without losing their place or having to provide the same information over and over again. When you offer your customers transparency and control, your chances of closing skyrocket.

The takeaway

The automotive industry is going digital,5 just like everyone else already has. And just like every other industry, there are going to be winners and losers – Facebooks and Myspaces. A strong digital retailing experience seamlessly integrates your dealership and online presence, and that gives you a new way to leverage customer data, build trust, generate leads, and increase your closing ratio. The best part is that when you do it right, you can close more deals with less manpower. The future is always going to be a challenge, but we can make your effort pay off.

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.

1 https://www.autoremarketing.com/arcanada/s-dilawri-employs-motoinsight-deliver-new-omni-channel-tech-across-10-rooftops

2 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/news/industry-news/as-car-buyers-head-online-auto-stores-adopt-a-new-way-ofthinking/article37194398/

3,4 https://www.bcg.com/en-ca/publications/2018/new-way-to-sell-cars.aspx

5 https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/disruptive-trends-that-will-transform-the-auto-industry

What does digital retailing look like going into 2022?

If this year felt like another blurry jumble of months and days, you’re not alone. Sometimes, I wake up expecting my calendar to tell me we’re 88 weeks into March, 2020; other days, August 2021 seems like a lifetime ago.

Whether you’ve experienced the passage of time or not, our industry sure has. The issue still on everyone’s mind is the supply shortages that have turned every dealer into a savvy seller of preowned vehicles, but the biggest change I’ve noticed in the past year and a half is the way cars are being sold.

What you need to know about automotive digital retailing for 2022

Let’s take a minute to recap the monumental changes we’ve experienced over the course of the pandemic, and see the lessons that so much of our industry learned through a trial by fire.

Flexibility is the key to survival

Perhaps the first lesson learned by dealers in the early weeks of the pandemic was the importance of flexibility. Consumer habits and needs can shift in an instant, and the dealers who use adaptable, future-proof tools are the ones who will be positioned to thrive.

That’s what we saw with digital retailing: dealers with the most advanced, fully featured digital retailing platforms reacted swiftly and successfully to lockdowns, partial re-openings, and every other curveball thrown their way.

Now, as consumers grow dependent on these digital tools to purchase cars even as showrooms reopen, the dealers with the most experience using digital retailing are the ones best suited to excel. The dealers who had no digital tools, or who had half-measures, may still be playing catch-up. You can find some tips on finding a great digital retailing platform for your dealership over here.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many dealerships relied on simple, out-of-the-box solutions to satisfy their digital needs. As the market matured rapidly over the course of 2020 and 2021, the differences between the customizable digital retailing solutions and the one-size offerings became clear.

Your customers’ buying habits never stop evolving. A flexible digital retailing solution keeps you on top, no matter what else changes

Your dealership runs differently than the one in another city; your dealership probably runs differently than the shop across the street. Having the flexibility to configure your digital retailing platform according to your needs, your team, your inventory, and your customer base is critical.

If I had to choose the number one reason dealers met with unsatisfactory results online, it’s that they didn’t (or couldn’t) tailor their tool to meet their needs. Not happy with your results? Check out our guide to solving common mistakes dealers make online!

The advanced digital retailing solution is always the right one

Not every car buyer needs the most advanced tech package you have available. You may not have bought the most sophisticated smartphone on the market, and I don’t blame you. Who really needs that many cameras on one phone?

The same isn’t true of digital retailing. A good digital solution doesn’t just patch a few holes today; it creates new possibilities for outreach strategies, re-engagement tactics, sales automation, and so much more. It’s not about what you know you need today, but what you didn’t realize you wanted for tomorrow.

Dealers who bought into the top-tier digital retailing platforms out of necessity – to keep their shops open during lockdowns – realized the potential to accomplish more than they did even before their physical doors closed.

Dealers on MotoCommerce digital retailing closed 30% of their online prospects, compared with 10% across the rest of the industry

Automotive digital retailing is now essential to success

Even two years ago, digital retailing was the choice of visionaries and future-forward disruptors. It wasn’t necessary, but it certainly offered the tech-savvy dealership a way to differentiate their business and accelerate their success.

Now, at the end of 2021, digital retailing is the norm. Even for regions where in-person shopping has returned in force, consumers have seen how easy it is to shop the way they’ve wanted to for years: digitally.

Whether online, in-person, or (more commonly) a combination of the two, the top digital retailing platforms offer a more streamlined, consistent, and efficient experience for customers, but also for your own team. There’s no going back to the way things were, and that’s a good thing.

After the automotive industry upheaval in 2020 and 2021, we can see that the digital future has arrived early. We can also see that it’s not as clear-cut or binary as “digital or not digital.” (Read more on that here.) By looking back at the lessons of the past nearly-two-years, we can etch a path forward that leads to greater efficiency, profit, and peace of mind.

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.

Easy (and measurable) ROI from your dealership’s digital ads

Advertising has come a long way from the whiskey-fueled, abstract creativity of Don Draper. As much as I enjoyed the AMC hit show Mad Men, I think that’s for the best – and not just for the obvious reasons. Dealership advertising in the digital age may have lost some of the ‘60s allure, but it has gained a level of sophistication and clarity that didn’t exist when businessmen still wore fedoras.

Digital tools from ABM campaigns to remarketing to mass analytics have created transparency throughout the advertising process, making it shockingly easy to manage lead attribution, and to tailor increasingly effective dealership ad campaigns.

“We have to find the right alchemy between creativity and technology” Wall Street Journal

So why is lead attribution and conversion still so difficult at the dealership? Are automotive consumers somehow different from any other type? Actually, it’s the exact opposite: your customers are trying to shop your dealership exactly how they shop for jeans, laptops, and nearly everything else. The key to stronger dealership advertising online is to make that kind of digital shopping experience a reality.

What are you missing?

We know that most car buyers start online, and do the bulk of their research from their computers and phones. You’re probably already meeting your customers where they shop – the internet. But what next? Even if your ads drive people to the website, there’s an invisible barrier that slows their progress and obscures your lead attribution numbers.

what are your dealership customers doing online? forbes

Identifying barriers on your website

When a customer lands on your website from a digital ad, their journey effectively ends. Sure, they can probably use a widget or two and find out some basic payment info, or even request a test drive. But once they’ve decided to come into the store, they have to start a new journey – one that is more cumbersome, and much more difficult to attribute.

The missing link is simple: a platform that bridges the chasm between your website and your showroom. To make the most of your dealership’s online ads, you need to keep the momentum going all the way to final signature.

Find the right bridge between ad, site, and showroom

That’s only possible with a fully featured digital retailing platform. With the right omnichannel tool, you can capture your leads directly from a digital advertisement, and lead them into a purchase funnel that not only conforms to the needs of each individual car buyer, but which carries the customer straight into your showroom along with all the relevant lead information.

You can learn more about choosing a tool like this over here.

What does that look like in action?

With a platform like this, your physical showroom is an extension of your website – and vice-versa. The attribution model is no longer broken when a customer appears in-store, and you have more data and insight that can help build even more effective ad campaigns.

Best of all, this sort of retailing model removes hurdles for customers, too. With a more streamlined, consistent experience, your leads are more likely to become guests, and your guests are more likely to become sales. It’s the omnichannel digital retailing experience that elevates the seller and the buyer.

When you connect your ads to your website and your website to your store with the right digital retailing tool, you’ll be amazed by how easily you can increase conversion, ROI, and even your customer satisfaction score.

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.