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.

Why isn’t digital retailing working for me?

As an early proponent of digital retailing, I’ve seen more success stories than I can remember. The part that always makes me smile, when I hear from thrilled digital retailing users, is how surprised they are by the magnitude of the results.

Of course, no one buys into digital retailing without expecting some positive results; with so many dealers, though, the outcomes are beyond even their wildest expectations. Except for when they aren’t.

Every so often, I talk to a dealer who doesn’t see the value in their digital tools. Their platform, whatever it may be, just isn’t working, and they give up.

It’s disappointing to see people abandoning a way of doing business that has so much potential to change their lives for the better – and to change the industry for the better. A happier digital future is already a reality for more and more dealerships every day, so why do some shops feel left out?

People are now choosing to do more communication online, and they're expressing less insistence on going out to take a test drive. Car and Driver

Make sure your team is engaged

The answer turned out to be simpler than you’d guess: you can’t get customer engagement before you get dealer engagement. If your dealership hasn’t bought into your digital retailing platform, then your customers never will.

When I talk to dealers who get great results with some form of omnichannel digital retailing platform, their methods are always different. Some centralize their entire process around the BDC, while others deputize their sales team to do targeted prospecting through the tool.

What the winners had in common

The only unifying factor among these success stories isn’t in the details, but in the people telling them: every person who had success with digital retailing approached the platform with enthusiasm, and built out a sales process that relied on their online shopping tools. Check out some automotive digital retailing success stories here!

What the unsuccessful had in common

Dealers who saw no meaningful benefits also had a unifying factor: their lack of enthusiasm and active buy-in for the tool. They saw their digital retailing platforms as “just one more widget” that could plug into their websites and generate leads in the background.

What does good automotive digital retailing look like?

Good digital retailing isn’t a widget. If your tool looks like a widget, then it probably can’t offer true digital retailing to your customers. Real DR is a way to mirror your in-store processes online, and to connect those two twinned sales funnels into one seamless and effortless experience for customers and sales professionals alike.

Just like selling a car in the showroom, this requires enthusiasm and training. To be successful, a dealership needs to work with its tool – and the customer support team that goes along with it – to build, maintain, and evolve a better process. You can learn more about training and process development here.

The benefits of a great digital retailing implementation

One of the things I hear from every satisfied digital retailing user is how much easier it makes their lives. With a strong, tested digital retailing sales process, each sale takes less time and less effort to close.

We’ve seen dealerships closing up to 80% of their digital retailing leads. We’ve also seen dealerships closing ~10% of their online leads, and that gulf is down to dealer engagement. Digital retailing isn’t just another lead-gen. tool that sits on your VDP: it’s a powerful and flexible funnel that not only creates leads, but closes them, too.

The only thing you have to do is use it.

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