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Whether partially or fully operational, a growing number of dealerships across Canada have turned to digital retailing as a key component of servicing customers and selling cars during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some have already made the shuffle, ahead of these unprecedented times, others will need to implement this all-new way of conducting business into their operations for the very first time.

With that in mind, we wanted to provide an outline of how dealers can create an efficient strategy for their online lot, to maintain contact and build trust with prospects and customers, all while respecting the new normal of physical distancing.


  1. Clear Transparent Pricing

The top reason consumers use online sources is to compare prices.1 Regardless of the circumstances, dealers must ensure their pricing is accurate and reflects what is advertised in-store. If a consumer calls or visits the lot, and discovers the price differs from what is advertised online, trust erodes, and, ultimately results in the consumer steering away from purchasing from that specific store. This is true for any sales process, but especially in digital retailing since dealers need the consumer to trust absolutely that buying online as opposed to in-person will not impact their deal in any way negatively.

  1. Seamless Connection from Online to Showroom

A key finding from our consumer research studies is the immediate need for a bridge between dealers and consumers, while providing a seamless online experience.1 This tells us that consumers prefer to begin their journey online and pickup right from where they left off, at the dealership. Dealers should establish line of sight into the specific stage of the buying journey each of their prospective clients has reached, and, furthermore, the intent of their visit or call to the dealership. For example, dealers should at the very least know the exact vehicle within a consumer’s consideration set, their budget, and, if they are scheduled for a test drive. This is particularly crucial for dealerships that have temporarily ceased operations, as tracking and storing this information will be paramount to ramping up follow-ups with these customers once business as usual resumes.

  1. Interactive Discussions

A car purchase is a big one, and, while effective online merchandising results in detailed descriptions and an abundance of quality photos, consumers will likely have more questions. They may need guidance on finance or lease options, have questions about the vehicle’s service or accident history, or, request a more detailed, real-time look at the interior and exterior. Dealers should take this opportunity to leverage immersive communications, such as live video chat, to accommodate face-to-face discussion, delivered digitally, with high intent car shoppers. This is a great way to speed up the process as consumers get real-time responses, and needless to say, an entirely new source of leads.

  1. Clear Process & Call to Action Buttons

It’s paramount for dealers to make it as seamless and straightforward as possible for consumers to move through a digital retail process. This might include simply UX elements such as a breadcrumb or a progress tracker to show the user where they are and which stage comes next. Dealers should walkthrough their digital retailing setup, from the perspective of the consumer, to get a pulse on usability. If a consumer can follow through a clear step-by-step process, with a logical path to the next step, then they are more likely to complete the action, and favour doing business with that specific dealership.

  1. Communication is Key

Dealer’s shouldn’t overlook communication. In a time like this, it’s not something that should be put on the backburner. Dealership representatives should respond to consumers right away and keep track of these conversations, particularly if dealers are using a digital retailing solution. It’s evident that those customers are the most likely to convert at this time, or in the near future, and they are serious about buying a car.

  1. Make a Brand Promise

Part of finding success in digital retailing is making it evident that you offer the solution. It’s imperative for dealers to make a promise to consumers about what their dealership can offer, that will resonate with them. A BMW dealer in Colorado has coined the following brand promise to their customers: “One price. One person. One hour.” A message that can resonate with the vast majority of their clients, as shoppers have now come to expect time efficiency and convenience throughout the vehicle purchase process. This is an incredibly powerful brand positioning as it speaks to one of car buyers’ #1 pain points, the time taken to negotiate, visit a dealership, and so forth.

There’s no denying that today’s savvy consumers already know the characteristics of a convenient online shopping experience. Disruption driven by leading e-commerce brands – Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, to name a few – have reshaped shopping expectations and behaviours from the onset of the process. From buying clothes, to electronics, and now, even groceries, consumers seek ease of use, efficiency, and speed with just about every transaction. Now, it’s up to dealers to respond by providing a superior experience, higher level of service, and allowing consumers to go deeper in the purchase process online, from the comfort of their home.

Interested in finding out how our complimentary tools can help you service customers and sell cars, during these unprecedented times?

Click here to get a detailed view into the Remote Selling Suite, available to dealers today!

Source (1) TRADER Keystone Research Study August 2018