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3 Digital Retailing Best Practices for Dealerships

Picture this: You were one of the dealers that initially resisted the push to digital automotive retailing. Selling cars is a people business and you wanted as much of that process as possible to remain in-person and inside the auto dealership.

But then 2020 happened and suddenly digital and remote retailing are no longer optional or a “nice to have,” with industry research finding 88% of dealers are now going beyond conducting business in their physical location as a result of COVID-19. 

IHS Markit research finds nearly 60% of consumers who purchased during the peak of the pandemic did so at least partially online. They aren’t just shopping. Consumers are turning to digital platforms at nearly every step of their buying journey, taking virtual test drives, purchasing and even scheduling service for their vehicles.

Adapting to evolving consumer preferences to offer more remote and digital retailing options is critical for dealerships to stay competitive moving forward. For many, this means shifting your dealership’s mentality away from “digital-to-retail” and embracing digital retail as part of your new car sales experience – requiring the same care and commitment to excellence as in-person sales.    

In this blog post, we share three digital retailing best practices for dealerships, including: 

  • Creating a digital retailing plan that fits for your auto dealership
  • Investing in modern digital tools and processes
  • Focusing on proactive and impactful customer interactions  

Create & Stick to Your Digital Retail Plan

Simply put, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to digital transformation for dealerships, as this process should be unique to your dealership – just like your brand’s promise. 

When developing and adopting a digital retailing strategy, analyze what makes your dealership’s in-person car shopping unique and successful. Review positive (and negative) customer feedback, dig into sales reports to understand your dealership’s loyalty, service and conquest performance and, with the help of your department heads, begin developing a digital plan of attack that leverages what you’re good at. 

Whatever that plan may be, it’s critical it’s developed with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals in mind that cascade into additional success across the dealership. Ensure these goals account for the entire dealership. These SMART goals should make your course of action easier to follow for the entire dealership. 

While expectations are typical of your sales and service departments, updating and refining the expectations for your BDC and other digital-first departments at your dealership will be critical. Consider every aspect of the old digital-to-retail process and ensure the new systems and processes don’t skip important details, like the hand-off from the BDC or service to sales. These little details are the building blocks to delivering a consistent and excellent customer experience across sales channels. 

Invest in Modern Tools & Processes

Digital transformational can be a costly and timely process, leading many dealers to adopt cheap, simple solutions in hopes of minimizing expenses. But going fully online doesn’t just mean running more digital ads and adding a chat feature to your website – instead, dealerships should be investing in the future of their dealership through digital retailing best practices that empower employees to assist every customer. 

Finding the right digital systems for your dealership is far more important than finding the cheapest options. For example, your dealership’s BDC may already be integrated with your  CRM, but if they had access to predictive analytics and tools, answering emails and inquiries would go from a passive attempt to a full-blown marketing strategy, one that proactive digital retailers around the country are using to great success.

Another key place to invest is in a specific digital retail concierge. Working as an extension of the BDC with a focus on lead nurturing, instead of lead generation, a “Digital Concierge” can collect all the information your CRM and DMS doesn’t currently, such as credit applications, down payment options, the communication between sales and F&I and more. Dealers sometimes skip this position to keep expenses down, but it has proven invaluable to those proactive dealerships seeking to jump on opportunities in the current market.

Focus on Proactive, Impactful Consumer Interactions

With in-person buying shrinking and digital connections increasing every day, communicating effectively and directly with your customers (when, where and how they want to) is as crucial as any step in the digital retailing process. 

It starts with a simple fact: People like to buy things from those they like and trust. Utilizing as many safe, face-to-face options for your team – like video calls with the Digital Concierge to discuss vehicle options or with a Service Writer to diagnose that clunking sound and schedule an appointment – can be the difference between meeting your financial goals and missing the mark entirely. 

Ensure every aspect of your digital presence, from your website’s language and layout to your social media feeds, is consistent, informational and reflects what and how you do business. Instruct your managers on how best to oversee this digital communication, and most importantly, that your customers are being attended to promptly. If you don’t get it right, there are plenty of other dealerships ready to score a conquest sale.

Digital retail may be new, but like the Internet, it’s not going anywhere. Proactive dealerships around the country have spent time and money perfecting their dealership’s approach to digital retailing, and they are reaping the benefits during this unprecedented pandemic. 


Interested in learning how Market EyeQ can empower your dealership to improve its digital retailing efforts? Request your demo today.