How to Choose An Automotive Digital Retailer

How to Choose An Automotive Digital Retailer

According to Google, 92 percent of car buyers research online before making a purchase. You need to make it as easy as possible for online shoppers to make the leap from researcher to customer if you want more sales. You’ll need a digital retailing tool.

What are digital retailing tools? They are online programs shoppers can use to help them:

  • Schedule a test drive
  • Pre-qualify for financing
  • Calculate loan payments
  • Value their trade-in, and
  • Ask questions about a car

In short, a digital retailing tool will simplify the buying process and generate more qualified leads for your sales team.

Not all digital retailers are created equal, though. Some are much more effective than others.

How can you know which tool is right for your car dealership? We recommend considering these three factors:

1. The Features

When shopping for digital retailing tools, it is vital to consider the features every option provides. At a minimum, you should expect each system to offer:

  • A trade-in valuation tool
  • A payment calculator, and
  • A loan pre-qualification form

However, depending on the nature of your dealership’s customer base, you may also need your digital retailing tool to provide features like a tutorial video or CRM compatibility.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure the features offered by the digital retailing tools are easy to use. If they are clunky or confusing, you may want to explore other options.

2. The Look and Feel

You don’t want your digital retailing tool to seem out of place on your car dealership’s website. As such, you should ensure the option you select fits the look and feel of your site.

We recommend paying particularly close attention to design and color customizability. If your digital retailing tool uses different colors than the rest of your site, your customers may not trust it.

It’s also a good idea to check if the call-to-action buttons are editable. Customized phrases tend to achieve better results than generic directions.

3. The Provider’s Reputation

It is crucial to think about the reputation of the company that makes the digital retailing tools. Are they new to the automotive industry? Or have they been helping dealerships like yours generate leads for years?

Do they have a reputation for being overly sales-focused? Or do they have a dedicated support team you can call if you have questions about the system?

If a provider seems inexperienced or unsupportive, they’re probably not the right partner for you.

Why FastLane Leads is the Perfect Digital Retailing Tool for Your Dealership

The search for the perfect digital retailing tool for your dealership does not have to be difficult. In fact, you’ve already found what you’re looking for! 

FastLane Leads from fusionZONE is one of the best digital retailing tools on the market today. It offers tons of innovative features designed to help you generate and manage leads, such as:

  • A trade-in valuation tool powered by Kelley Blue Book
  • A financing pre-qualification portal and a payment calculator
  • The ability to integrate with both search results pages and vehicle display pages
  • A detailed tutorial video, and
  • CRM compatibility

FastLane Leads also fits in seamlessly with the look and feel of your car dealership’s website. It even gives you the power to customize your call-to-action buttons to make them more appealing to your customers.

Of course, the fusionZONE team didn’t develop FastLane Leads overnight. We’ve been creating award-winning sales conversion tools for more than a decade. We know what it takes to develop a highly-effective digital retailing system.

fusionZONE also understands how important it is to support our dealer partners. That is why we have a dedicated support line our clients can call any time they have a question about FastLane Leads or any of our other products. When you need us, we will be there.

With so much to love about fusionZONE and the FastLane Leads digital retailing system, it is no surprise we have a 4.9-star rating on Google.

fusionZONE Google Business Profile

Ready to Get Started with FastLane Leads? Contact fusionZONE Today! 

Is your dealership ready to begin generating leads and driving sales with FastLane Leads? If so, please do not hesitate to call fusionZONE at (424) 232-0728. Our friendly representatives will be more than happy to schedule a demo and answer all your questions. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Memorial Day Profit Centers for Your Dealership

Memorial Day Profit Centers for Your Dealership

Memorial Day weekend has long been one of the most lucrative holidays for car dealerships across the United States. However, as vehicle inventory levels remain low, many dealers are expecting this year to be less profitable than usual.

Fortunately, this is misplaced pessimism. Though new and used car sales are likely to be slower than normal, it’s still possible to have a successful weekend by focusing on your auto dealership’s other profit generators, such as:

Service

The lack of new and used vehicle inventory means drivers are keeping their old cars on the road for longer. Those high-mileage cars require lots of regular maintenance! 

Your dealership can capitalize on the increased demand for maintenance by offering deals on oil changes and tire rotations this Memorial Day. A 50 percent off coupon is sure to drive customers to your showroom.

Once motorists arrive at your shop, you can generate additional income by recommending other services their vehicle needs. For most dealerships, filter changes and wiper blade replacements are among the most profitable service upsells.

You can even use service visits as a way to build your used car inventory. While your technician is working on a customer’s vehicle, have a manager appraise it and make a buyback offer to the owner. This tactic is particularly effective if the car needs repairs the owner does not want to pay for.

Road Trip Bundles

For many drivers, Memorial Day is the start of road trip season. However, before they set out on their journeys, they will want to get their cars serviced.

You can enjoy a highly profitable holiday weekend by promoting your auto dealership’s road trip bundle specials. Most shops advertise these services in the following ways:

However, if you want to maximize your results, we suggest using FastCoupon. This fusionZONE product gives you the ability to send tune-up coupons directly to your customers’ phones!

Car Detailing

If your dealership is low on inventory, you probably have a lot of unused space on your lot. Why not turn some of that empty space into a profit generator by adding a car washing and detailing station? All you need are a few basic tools and supplies, like:

  • An air compressor
  • A steam cleaner
  • A wet/dry vacuum
  • Detailing brushes
  • Detailing towels
  • A sponge, and
  • A power washer

Of course, before you set up your detailing station, you should check with the city to ensure you do not need any additional permits. It’s also a good idea to discuss the idea with your insurance agent to make sure it won’t impact your policy.

If you receive the green light, your new car detailing station could generate additional income for your dealership this Memorial Day. You can even encourage customers to take a quick look at a few vehicles while they wait. You might just make a sale!

Accessories

Whether they are setting out on a cross-country road trip or spending the summer at home, your customers need accessories for their vehicles. The most popular accessories include:

  • Wireless phone chargers
  • Trunk organizers
  • Anti-slip dash pads
  • Jump start kits
  • Travel coolers
  • Dash cams, and
  • First aid kits

If you want to maximize your Memorial Day income, don’t force your customers to go to Walmart or Amazon to buy these accessories. Stock them in your showroom instead!

Of course, if you want to drive sales, you’ll need to let people know about your accessories. We recommend going live on Facebook to showcase your products and answer questions from your followers. 

You can also make an announcement on local directories like Yelp and Nextdoor. fusionZONE’s FastListings product can help you make these announcements in a matter of minutes!

Ready to Take Your Dealership to the Next Level? fusionZONE Can Help! 

Do you need help marketing your dealership and its services this Memorial Day? If so, you have come to the right place! The fusionZONE team has been helping dealerships like yours find new customers and increase revenues for years. We understand the automotive industry, and we are ready to go to work for you!

To learn more about our services, all you need to do is fill in our short online contact form or give us a call at (424) 232-0728. Our friendly representatives will be more than happy to assist you!

Automotive Industry Q1 Recap: Supply Chain Issues Persist

Auto Industry Q1 Recap

Auto Industry Q1 Recap

In this installment of the fusionZONE blog, we’re covering the state of the automotive industry following Q1 of 2022.

What’s improved, and what’s stayed the same? Where are the areas of opportunity, and what’s the outlook for Q2 and beyond?

We’ll cover all of these questions and more, so stay with us as we recap Q1 and what to expect in the months ahead.  

The State of the Automotive Industry

 As we covered in our 2022 Automotive Industry Outlook, the auto industry is in a state of flux as suppliers and manufacturers continue to struggle with ongoing automotive supply chain issues.

In particular, the high cost of materials and components and low supply has forced many companies to raise prices on their vehicles. This has led to increased inflation throughout the automotive market, as consumers are increasingly unwilling to pay more for cars.

New vehicle sales in Q1 2022 came in at 3.3 million, according to Kelley Blue Book, down 15.7% year over year from 3.9 million in the first quarter of 2021.

However, Q1’s EV sales of 173,561 set a record for any quarter, representing an increase of 76% from Q1 2021.

Additionally, the industry is seeing some interesting used car market trends as consumers shift away from new cars in favor of cheaper alternatives. We’ll take a closer look at all of these issues in this article.

With the rise in vehicle prices, many consumers are turning to the used car market for cheaper alternatives. In fact, the used car market has seen a surge in popularity in recent months as buyers look to save money on their next purchase.

These used car trends are likely to continue as more and more people become aware of the benefits of buying used cars. Additionally, the increased availability of online resources has made it easier than ever to find quality used cars.

While it’s likely that automotive supply chain issues will continue at least in the short term, there are steps you can take to mitigate the effects on your business.

Opportunities: Overlooked Dealership Profit Centers

Despite the challenges faced in Q1 of 2022, there are some positive signs for the automotive industry.

One is that dealers are starting to focus on profit centers that have been overlooked in recent years. These include things like vehicle buybacks, service centers and parts departments.

By diversifying their revenue streams, dealers are becoming less reliant on new car sales and more resistant to market fluctuations.

Another positive sign is that automotive manufacturers are starting to focus more on electric vehicles. This is a good move for two reasons. First, it helps them meet stricter emissions standards that are being put in place worldwide. Second, electric vehicles are becoming more popular with consumers, so there’s a growing market for them when new vehicle supply improves.

While online car buying is still in its early stages, it’s growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are choosing to buy a car online. This is another area of opportunity for traditional car dealerships to improve and capture the attention of modern and next-generation car buyers.

Another area of opportunity for car dealerships is vehicle buybacks.

Dealers can buy back quality used cars or lease returns to add to their pre-owned inventory. Vehicle buybacks from lease returns or new or used car shoppers can help dealers replenish their inventory during this time of new vehicle scarcity on many lots.

Finally, service centers and parts departments are another potential source of revenue for car dealerships.

As motorists hold onto their vehicles for longer due to the higher prices of new and used cars, they’ll require routine maintenance and repairs. Dealerships that have a strong service center and parts department will be able to capitalize on this trend.

A well-run service center can generate repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing for the dealership. Dealerships that focus on their service center and parts department can create a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

See our 10 tips to increase service department profitability for ways to boost this area of your business!

Q2 Outlook

Despite these positive trends and areas of opportunity, the automotive industry is still facing some significant challenges going into Q2.

Supply chain issues continue to plague the industry, as parts shortages and production delays are becoming more common. Additionally, inflationary pressures are making it difficult for consumers to purchase new vehicles, as the cost of living continues to rise.

In the short term, these challenges are likely to persist, but the automotive industry is poised for a rebound in the long term.

The supply chain constraints will not resolve overnight, so expect more of the same heading into Q2 of 2022.

Some automotive industry experts don’t expect the automotive supply chains to return to some form of normalcy until sometime in 2023. But, of course, that all depends on things we cannot know or control, such as returns to overseas pandemic lockdowns and geopolitical events that could affect that outlook.

It is still too early to tell what the future holds for the automotive industry. However, dealerships will need to continue to be creative in order to adapt and thrive in this ever-changing landscape.

Digital Marketing Resources and Solutions for Q2 and Beyond

Are you looking for online marketing tools and resources to stay ahead of the competition in Q2 and beyond? The fusionZONE team has you covered, from SEO and Google Ads and social media, reputation management and lead conversion tools like our FastRing callback widget.

See our high-performing and competitively priced digital marketing packages for an all-in-one approach to enhancing your online marketing efforts.

You can reach out to the fusionZONE team if you’d like assistance creating a digital marketing playbook to help you thrive in Q2 and beyond!

Also, consider these budget-friendly digital marketing ideas to get you started on increasing leads and sales through the rest of 2022.

2022 Automotive Industry Outlook

The auto industry has experienced unprecedented uncertainty during the global pandemic and subsequent microchip shortage and supply chain issues. Unfortunately, it appears these supply challenges will continue well into 2022 and potentially beyond.

In this week’s edition of the fusionZONE blog, we’re focusing on the outlook for the automotive industry in 2022, including what carmakers and the auto sales industry may be facing over the coming months and year.

We’ll also cover some ways that dealerships can combat supply chain issues and outperform their competition in 2022!

A Look Back

If you look back to early 2021, things were looking up once again. The U.S. economy was surging, picking up steam as we looked to move past the pandemic.

Between low interest rates and stimulus checks, car shoppers were back and ready to buy. As a result, not only did new car and truck sales soar in early 2021, but pre-owned vehicles were becoming harder to find as more drivers jumped back into the market looking to buy.

Some automakers were anticipating a record sales year in 2021, and the industry as a whole forecasted to move 18 million-plus vehicles.

But that was before the microchip shortage and other automotive supply chain issues hit.

Now, the semiconductor shortage is expected to last into 2022. That means carmakers may have to wait another year or even longer to see a new sales record.

Ongoing Supply Chain Challenges

With the supply of new cars remaining constrained into 2022, the used car market will also continue to feel the effects.

Thanks to fewer options and record-high prices, used car buyers and dealerships will likely continue struggling to find ideal vehicles with favorable pricing.

In short, new and used car dealerships will need to continue thinking creatively to overcome inventory issues.

Innovation Helps

The car dealership inventory shortage has indeed forced dealers to think outside the box, and this type of thinking will continue to serve businesses well.

As we mentioned in our “Setting Yourself Up for Success in Q4” blog post, creating a plan to minimize the effects of inventory issues should be a top priority as we look to a new year.

It’s also critical to find better ways to understand your customer base. So dealers will want to consider the key takeaways from post-pandemic shopping patterns.

Want more insights into the car dealership environment for 2022? Then be sure to stay tuned to the fusionZONE blog for automotive industry updates!

This is a developing story. Tune back in for updates!

9 Customer Appreciation Events for Car Dealers

Retaining customers and attracting new ones can seem like a full-time job for many car dealerships. After all, there are plenty of places for local consumers to buy and service vehicles.

So how can you create loyal customers and bring in new business?

One proven way is to hold customer appreciation events. These events not only make consumers feel special but also showcase your dealership, products and services.

Customer appreciation events can help boost CSI scores, which should matter to every dealership, since the customer experience still reigns supreme.

Take a look at these nine ideas for creating car dealership events that current and potential customers will love!

1. Throw a Customer Appreciation Party

Everyone loves to feel appreciated, so extend that feeling to your valued customers with a customer appreciation party. Roll out the red carpet (figuratively or literally) and give customers the VIP treatment just for supporting your business.

You could create a VIP Event with invitations sent out to those on your customer list. Or, consider opening it up to all, with a focus on showing how you value everyone who shops, buys and services at your dealership.

How do you throw a great party at your dealership? There are many creative ways to make your customers feel appreciated, from providing premium drinks and hors d’oeuvres to party games where contestants can win prizes.

2. Help Customers Learn Something New

Consider holding workshops or events at your dealership where your team will teach attendees something new if you’re searching for new ways to show customer appreciation. For instance, a car care or detailing clinic your staff puts on could show customers how to keep their vehicles looking pristine between visits to your service center.

You could demonstrate the proper way to wash and wax a car and cover simple, affordable ways to maintain a clean vehicle interior. If your dealership offers detailing services, this could be a great way of increasing awareness of your services and attracting more business, too.

3. Host a Barbecue or Picnic

Who doesn’t love a good picnic or barbecue? Especially if it involves free food and drink! Picnics or food events create a fun and casual environment for your customers, where you can build relationships, make new friends and even increase customer loyalty.

Plus, by hosting a barbecue for customers who have previously purchased a car from your dealership, you’re not only showing your appreciation but also highlighting current vehicles on your lot.

4. Hold a Customer Appreciation Day Sale

If your dealership isn’t into parties and picnics, you can always show appreciation to your valued customers by simply offering a day where they can save big on their next vehicle or service visit.

As any car dealer knows, there are all sorts of customers, each with different views on dealership perks. Offering special discounts could mean the difference between repeat business and consumers looking elsewhere, especially for your most money-conscious customers.

5. Offer Test Drive Incentives

Whether you’re aiming to reward current customers or attract new business, a great way to do it is to offer a test drive promotion. Test drive incentives show car shoppers you appreciate them taking the time to visit your dealership to view new inventory and pre-owned inventory, alike.

Many automakers routinely offer test drive promotions, where potential car buyers can receive a gift card or prepaid card just for taking a test drive. If handing out free rewards makes your customers feel special and leads to more sales, it’s a win-win!

Of course, you don’t have to offer prepaid cards or gift cards. You could always create a game or sweepstakes where test drivers get a chance to win dealership discounts, merchandise or other prizes.

6. Host and Sponsor Local Events

Every car dealer knows that hosting or sponsoring events is a great way to increase awareness of their business within the community. Still, hosting local events can also be a way to show your appreciation to loyal customers.

Need some ideas? No matter what brands of vehicles you sell, there are likely local car clubs or car shows that would appreciate you sponsoring or supporting their events. You can even offer to host car shows and clubs on your dealership lot.

What if you want to branch outside of car-centric events? Well, there are numerous ways to show appreciation to customers and the greater community, from canned food donation drives to fundraising events for local schools and sports teams.

7. Offer Free Gallons of Gas

Your customers love a good deal, especially when it’s something different than what they can find elsewhere. Think outside the box and offer perks that you know every car buyer will use, like free gas! Instead of offering the usual cash discounts on certain cars, consider creating a free gas promotion.

Depending on current gas prices, you could offer a certain amount of free gallons of gas per vehicle purchase. This shows your customers you’re addressing their concerns about car ownership costs even after the dealership transaction.

8. Hold an After-Hours Sale

Another way to create an automotive customer appreciation or VIP event is to extend your usual business hours and offer exclusive sales and deals to visitors.

Holding a sales event on a weeknight or after hours on the weekend could help attract your customers who can’t visit during regular business hours. Not only are you providing them with special offers, but you’re showing you value their time while offering a fun and convenient shopping experience.

9. Offer Pick-Up and Drop-Off Promotions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many car dealerships added complimentary perks like vehicle pick-up and drop-off services to support a safe shopping experience. The truth is, many motorists greatly appreciate these services, regardless of any public health situations.

If you’d like to show your customers that you value their time and continued business, think about providing limited drop-off and pick-up services for test drives, vehicle purchase delivery and maintenance and repair visits.

Want More Ideas? We’ve Got Them!

If you want even more ideas on customer appreciation events for car dealers, don’t hesitate to reach out to the fusionZONE team. Our DNA is pure dealer, so we understand what it takes to keep your current customers happy and attract new ones!

fusionZONE CEO Ed Barton shares a story about the importance of safety inspections and the danger in not taking them seriously.

Gray Scott Automotive DealerCOVID-19 has certainly shaken up the automotive industry. Many of our dealers are showing solidarity and providing support to those scratching their heads at what to make of the current situation.

One such dealer is Gray Scott, the Marketing Director for a high-volume dealership near Chicago, IL. He recently created an insightful post on LinkedIn that detailed what steps dealers are taking to maintain their web presence. Here is a relevant portion of that post:

 

“What we/you should be doing is maintaining a presence online with digital but making sure your message and creative is more top-funnel and value-oriented. If you have good content, car info, walkarounds, video test drives, this is what you need to be pushing. Over the next 2 weeks, people will be poking around. They will demand advertising inventory from the DSPs, because before the pandemic, they were in-market. People are not buying cars and are not trying to take unnecessary risks. Now is the time to make sure your SEO game is on fire. YouTube and social as well. It’s a time to evaluate your website and its user experience and consider making changes. In 2-3 weeks and when stay-in-place orders are lifted, THIS will be the time to double down.”

 

When Scott references user experience, he is referring to banners, homepage calls-to-actions, and top-level menu items being correctly optimized to reach top-of-funnel customers. If you are offering a new service, such as video walk arounds or home deliver, assess where customers can find this content and ensure it’s visible and above the fold. Don’t forget to check your mobile view, where 40-60% of your customers view your site!

Scott’s emphasis on SEO, YouTube, and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are essential to reaching top-of-funnel customers. They are the best platforms suited to delivering informational content. For paid search, Google has recently announced a relief fund for Google Ads, so be sure to keep an eye on that space as well to take advantage of free advertising credits.

We hope you are staying safe!

Check your inbox regularly for more updates from fusionZONE on how to tackle obstacles created by COVID-19.

 

Don’t Let The Phones Keep Ringing

A strong online presence usually means a higher call volume. This means you need to work the phones better than ever.  Questions you should be asking:

  • When a customer calls the dealership, where does that call go?  Make sure your associates in-store are prepared to respond accordingly.
  • If your BDC is currently working from home, are calls routed to their personal phones?
  • What happens if a customer has service needs? Can you accommodate them at their home, or can a technician offer some tips?
  • Is your team set to text prospects?

The digital workforce depends on phones. Make sure your sales department has one or more active sales routing options to capture people’s interest and turn them into sales.
 
For those customers shopping from home, invite them to speak with a member of the sales team to discuss buying and delivery options on new and pre-owned inventory.
 
Get Some FaceTime

Consider taking to video. Do all you can to help simulate the car-buying experience from a virtual setting. 
Don’t shy away from being creative. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Use your service scheduling tool to make FaceTime appointments to discuss inventory and delivery options.
  • Record more vehicle walk-throughs and feature demos on video. (Video test drives are not recommended.)
  • Consider going live on a social media platform to open a Q&A on financing options, test drive deliveries, at-home vehicle service, or other ways your dealership is adapting to current concerns.

Be aware, the purpose of these calls may vary greatly right now, based on circumstance. These calls could range from the “discovery/information-gathering” phase, where prospects are early in the buying process, to the “buy now” phase, where customers are looking for convenience and immediacy for vehicle purchase and delivery.
 
Buyers still value face-to-face interaction. If you can’t get in front of them all in person, be creative and use technology.

 

Get the Message Out

How is your dealership responding to the COVID-19 outbreak?  The first step is to communication. Consumers want reassurance you’re taking the coronavirus threat seriously and prioritizing their safety.  Let your customers know and start with the basics.  

Ways to Communicate

How do you get the message out? Whether it’s texting, FaceTime, or social media, people are as connected and plugged in with technology as ever before. You should embrace this.

Think website first, with a landing page and/or pop-over informing customers of dealership updates specific to COVID-19. Use email to directly broadcast your message to a wider group.

Customers also frequent social media. Spread the word and exist where your audience is. Consider using a hashtag to index coronavirus updates:

  • #DealershipNameCOVID19Updates
  • #AlertNotAnxious
  • #ShopAtHome
  • #ShopDistancing

Be sure to also update your Google My Business Page and your website’s hours of operation. If they’re different from the usual operating hours, make that known. If there’s no change, acknowledge its business as usual, while also pointing out precautionary measures taken.

If you are changing operations or services, provide clear steps for customers to take so they can remain in contact with you. You may even be surprised to see how customers respond to humanized communication.

Ideally, you should spread the word in as many ways as you can. At a minimum:

  • Confirm if/how operating hours are affected by COVID-19.
  • Share updates with customers via your website, social media, and email.

You don’t have to be a virologist to communicate with your customers about how you are facing challenges head-first. Keep your customers informed with upbeat, clear, and concise updates. 

Safety First

What safety measures are you taking in response to COVID-19? 

  • Is hand sanitizer available where hand-to-hand contact may occur?
  • Has hand-washing become a focal point for employees?
  • How frequently is the dealership deep cleaned everyday?

All additional measures count.

Think Outside the Box

Make your dealership stand out from the rest. How? Here are some ideas on how to accommodate your customers while public transportation is a minimum:

  • Home delivery on vehicle purchases.
  • At-home car detailing and deep cleaning.
  • Complete the F&I process at home or online.

 

Consider the circumstances and try to relieve the burden for your customers, as best as you can.

“Disruption” is one of those Silicon Valley buzzwords that I’ve begun to grow tired of. It’s a catch-all word that is used anytime an industry or product is experiencing changes or pop up competition. Perhaps more accurately, we should see terms such as “evolving,” or “maturing.” More simply stated, what many industries or products are experiencing is just new competition.

In automotive, there is a history of disruptors that fundamentally change or alter a maturing market. Remember the minivan craze of the 90s? It was followed by the crossover phase and disrupted the wagon segment to such a degree they almost went extinct, at least in North America. 

Now going into 2020, we are seeing the disruption in both segments and distribution. Companies like Tesla are disrupting with fully electric cars that are distributed through a direct sales model. Companies like Vroom and Carvana are offering full digital retailing online, from start to finish with a delivery of the car to your driveway. Yet, these companies have not experienced an “amazon-like” transformation and are still very niche players. Why is that?

Another industry that is experiencing this same kind of disruption is the grocery industry. While stores changed continuously and evolved to keep up with customer trends and tastes over the years, one principal of the business transaction remained constant for decades: People had to come to them to get fresh food and produce. 

With companies like Peapod and Amazon Fresh, combined with more meal prep-orientated services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, that is all changing. Direct to consumers, some with discounted or even free shipping, these services are endangering the rock-solid model of people going to their favorite supermarket for food staples. Is the traditional industry doomed? No, at least not for the ones embracing the competition. Let me explain.

When faced with the prospect of consumers able to shop online for their most common groceries, the incumbent stalwarts of the grocery world (Think Kroger, Safeway, Publix, etc.) have a choice to make when fighting to keep their market share against the online disruptors. My local grocer of choice, Meijer, decided to partner with Shipt to make home delivery from online shopping available.

App-based shopping, with nearly all of the same products and staples you’re familiar with at the physical location available for same-day shipping. And for some, within the hour. Instead of fighting against the new model, grocery stores decided to participate. Meijer is certainly not alone, many major chain grocers are now adopting a “we shop for you, and ship for you” model. They also have a great hybrid solution where you purchase your items online, and a store shopper selects all your products for you. Then all you need to do is visit a curbside pickup at the physical store and collect your items, saving you from even having to enter the store. They took the opportunity of the new online model not just as a threat alone, but as a challenge to innovate their business model for evolving consumer shopping behavior.

This got me thinking. Why is it that when I talk to dealers and salespeople in the industry, they deride the online digital retailers like Carvana and Vroom? Why do they insist it’s a passing fad or dismiss their importance altogether? For years, I have heard dealers tell me, “Oh sure, salesperson Johnny could do an at-home test drive, we’ll gladly go to a customer’s house to have them look at a car.”  

However, the reality is that it never happens. Or, if it does, it is supremely rare. Taking any piece of the consumer transaction away from the dealership is frowned upon, no matter what. This usually comes at the direction of management.

Perhaps it’s the power dynamic that makes dealers uncomfortable. When a customer is in your dealership, they are on your turf, your zone. That can be intimidating for some customers, no matter how comfortable or relaxed going your sales staff is. Perhaps dealers like dictating the way the sales process will go on their home court. Now it’s just salesperson Johnny and me in my driveway, there is no more of the walled office of intimidation. There is no more, “ok, let me run that by the manager while I hide from you, and we talk about you behind your back.” Also, there has to be a ton of accountability on Johnny that he won’t just give the car away for a song, and his sales manager is not there to hover over his shoulder to approve every pencil and sales move that he makes. 

Its accountability that many dealers don’t have with their staff or actively don’t want. There is no finance office pressure. The upselling of finance products has to be pre-selected or presented, it’s no longer in the boiler room of F&I pros, it’s a driveway chat with checkboxes that need to be presented. The motivation to sell is in a different environment. I’ve bought several cars over the past four years from established franchised dealers and independent used car lots, luxury cars and economy cars. The experience was the same. Not once was it ever presented as a possibility that they would or could come to me.

Why does the automotive world insist that customers who desire to complete their purchase online, or from the comfort and familiarity of their home, must be forced to visit the dealership? 

Perhaps this is why the majority of people still hold the opinion that buying a car is high on their list of stress-inducing and disliked activities. There will always be those who remain traditional, both those who prefer buying products in-store and those who like buying automobiles direct from a dealer. 

However, it’s the growing segment of the market that prefers a digital experience which the automotive industry can learn from. How about meeting consumer behavior changes the way grocery stores did? By not rejecting the disruptor model but embracing it.

Dealers have the inventory; they CAN do this. The question is, do they want to? Many people I have talked to are still uncomfortable with completing their purchase without first seeing what they are buying in person. Especially something as expensive and vital as their car. I would love to see dealers begin to promote and market home delivery and online shopping. Let’s make that process easier. If we do not, the market will speak and slowly keep chipping away at established dealerships selling in the traditional model, in favor of those who can evolve with the way consumers want to transact business, increasingly online. 

Do you agree with me? How many of you out there have tried one of these online grocery shopping services? Was it a good experience? Has anyone ever had a dealer come to their house to sell them a car? Let me know in the comments below.