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5 Steps to Online Retailing

Article Highlights:

  • Online retailing has become a large part of sales operations.
  • How to serve customers no matter where they are.

Online retailing surged in 2020, no surprises there. It’s now a huge part of every sales conversation, as more consumers want pieces of the typical car purchase available to them online. However, only about one percent of consumers are truly purchasing there[1]. Meaning, a very small sliver of customers are ending their car purchase where they started, online. By default, that also means there are customers who have a blended buying experience, starting online and ending in-store. Thus, dealerships have to be able to serve customers no matter how they want to buy. It’s not an either/or choice – online or in-store. It’s being able to offer flexible online retailing options for every customer and by design, being able to Retail Anywhere. Let’s break this down in five steps.

Step 1: Market Your New Process

You would market a new vehicle on your lot, so why not market how equipped you are to meet consumer needs, even from the convenience of their home? To do this, update your external messaging across the board, including:

  • Social media feeds
  • Search engine advertising
  • Website copy
  • Emails
  • Direct mail

If you communicate to your buyers you can meet them wherever they are, maximizing on that convenience factor, you’ll remain a candidate on their purchasing list. If not, they’ll move on to someone who can.

Step 2: Get Your Vehicle Listings Ready for Prime Time

Vehicle listings online are a huge piece of the buying decision. If you can’t deliver accurate, up-to-date vehicle specs, why would a customer be interested at all? Your online vehicle listings need the essentials:

  • Quality, detailed pictures and videos
  • Accurate pricing
  • Relevant description with just the right amount of detail
  • Similar vehicle recommendations
  • Consumer reviews of your sales staff

These may be a given for some top-tier dealers, so to get a little more conscientious, consider what pricing options you have available:

  • Rebates and incentives, both national and conditional
  • Payment calculator that includes full financing and leasing options, as well as the ability to put a down payment online
  • Pre-qualification

When you’re armed with these additional options, it adds a new level of convenience for the customer.

Step 3: Maximize Communication

Would you be surprised if I said only 53% of dealer websites met consumer expectations[2]? Good news is you can do better. One feature that’s emerging more in recent years is chat messaging, and given that 72% of chat messages are inventory related[3], it’s in those short few seconds where you need to appeal to the customer with the most appropriate and opportune information.

Establishing this type of convenient communication method keeps the conversation evolving from simple research to a purchasing decision in an organic way, and it’s the easiest and non-intrusive way to gather relevant information from potential buyers who may never step foot in your showroom.

Step 4: Build the Deal

At this point, your foundation is laid, so now it’s about building the deal. With a single system built to work together, the data and pricing are right every time. Use your Desking tools to simply build the deal scenarios and send them to the customer using the communication methods mentioned earlier to keep the deal progressing.

Once the customer accepts a deal option, this means they’re accepting an actual deal, not a hypothetical quote or estimate. Since it’s already gone through your DMS, it’s not subject to change.

Step 5: Seal the Deal

This is your money maker, your cash cow. F&I drives critical profit for your dealership, but in an online setting, it can be difficult to maintain. Instead of allowing customers to browse on their own, you need to provide a virtual, interactive menu presentation that allows your highly skilled F&I manager to actually sell the customer on any aftermarket products. You can then walk your customer through the electronic document signing process or give them the option to complete the forms on their own.

The Retail Anywhere Sales Process

Taking the leap to invest in innovation is never easy, and history shows that dealerships who do so benefit. Nowhere is it clearer than in a Retail Anywhere sales process. By creating a more satisfying and more cost effective sales experience, you don’t just keep sales going, you create brand new profit opportunities. Why? Because you’ve introduced an experience that’s more convenient, more transparent, and more customer focused. That’s an undeniable advantage you can’t ignore.

[1] Reynolds study

[2] Deloitte

[3] Gubagoo

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President, Reynolds and Reynolds

Chris Walsh is president of Reynolds and Reynolds. He is focused on solving challenges facing automotive retailing and our customers across all of our businesses and delivering opportunities that help each dealer partner grow their business and be as successful as possible.  During his 35-year career with Reynolds, he’s built an accomplished background in sales, support, operations, and business development.

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