Harnessing Digital Retailing for Your Dealership

May 25, 2020

Team ACV




Harnessing Digital Retailing for Your Dealership

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Over the past few years, there’s been a major shift in how consumers view car dealerships. A dealership’s website is no longer an extension of the showroom, but rather the other way around. Thanks to the pandemic, the showroom is now an extension of a well-designed website. 

An estimated 92% of car shoppers begin the buying process online.1 So the question is no longer about how to get them through the doors and sell something from the showroom floor. Now, it’s about making digital retailing personalized and accessible.

Car buyers want to feel not only valued but seen. They want you to know who they are, what they need, and that you’re ready to help them through the process quickly and efficiently. Lavish them with personalization and convenience, and they are more likely to return to your car dealership again and again. This is the promise of automotive digital retailing.

What is Digital Retailing?

What is digital retailing, anyway? For starters, it’s not the same as digital marketing, which includes your social media channels, online advertisements, chatbots, and even the face of your site. Digitalization impacts everything from customer acquisition and vehicle delivery, to post-sale services.

In a nutshell, digital retailing is when you create a virtual footpath for your customers to follow. It’s a complete journey that empowers your customers to take control of their experience. This frees you up to focus on the details that will not only seal more internet car sales, but also inspire customer loyalty.

Digital retailing is so much more than just a website, it’s a personalized experience for potential customers. With a robust digital retailing platform, dealers can reach more customers and help each of them with their unique car needs. 

Streamline the Buyers’ Journey

When consumers find your dealership’s site, it’s your chance to take them by the hand and guide them through the car buyers’ journey. This way, they're primed to buy, and eager to do so.

The buyer's journey has four steps::

  • Awareness: When consumers are searching for information
  • Consideration: When they’re considering specific products
  • Purchase: When they actually convert and buy
  • Loyalty: When they’re loyal and will make future purchases 

So how can you apply the buyer’s journey to your automotive digital retailing? By using automotive digital retailing tools. Streamlining the buyer's journey for your customers might look something like this:

  • Stock your site with simple, easy-to-read information to inform and delight.
  • Meet your customer’s needs with financing options and calculators that are easily customizable. Make sure they’re something for everyone, whether they have good or bad credit.
  • Ensure that when the customer is ready to take the next step, they can find the dealership’s contact information quickly and easily.
  • Point your new customer in the direction of digital, e-signature-ready forms online. This way, they can get the buying process started from the comfort of their home.
  • Break down your warranties so your new customer understands exactly how you can protect them.
  • Set up an easy way for your new customer to schedule a test drive online.
  • Gather their information and establish preferred modes of conversation. Text? Great. Phone? No problem. Email? You’ve got this.

As you update and adjust your car buying process, test and test and test again. Get fresh pairs of eyes to go through the purchase process and fix any snags along the way.

Enable Customers to Shop Their Way

Ultimately, a digital retailing solution is about giving customers control over their shopping experience. This especially applies to how and when they shop. After all, who doesn’t love shopping from the comfort of their own home?

34% of online car shopping happens outside of regular business hours.1 By having a comprehensive online presence, you’re ensuring that your customers can shop anytime. It’s like always being open, but you don’t have to worry about staffing the night shift in real-time. 

A dealership’s approach to digital retailing allows customers to browse vehicles, features, and financing options at their leisure. They can take their time and explore your virtual showroom without the pressure of a salesperson looking over their shoulder. This way, when they finally come to the dealership or otherwise reach out, they’re confident in what they’re looking for. 

Know What Your Customers Want

Your customers may or may not know what they want when they walk in the door of your dealership. This is where your digital retailing strategy is important. Ideally, based on what information they’ve given you, you can identify the stage of buyers’ journey they’re in and meet their needs accordingly.  

Some customers want a zippy path straight through from research to financing to purchase. They simply want to stop by the car dealership to sign their name on the dotted line and pick up the keys. Others need more information and more time to consider the options. 

Updating your automotive digital retailing process with an omnichannel approach will let you appeal to a  variety of buyers. You’re showing them that you’re serious about holding their place in line. You have all their details and preferences logged so they don’t have to start over each time. This empowers them, puts them in the driver's seat, and ensures customer satisfaction. 

Once they’re in the dealership, there are a few things you should prioritize. First, point them to pricing and incentives that match what they’ve seen online. Then glide over to financing, insurance, and warranty process based on the information they provided online.Just like that, the dreaded, paperwork of the past has been transformed into a modern experience. 

Even customers in the awareness stage, will gain confidence in your dealership by seeing the tools you have at your fingertips. When they walk out the door, they know that you’ll be ready to make the process an enjoyable and painless one when they come back with a decision.

Connect Your Back Office and Customer Experience

Digital retailing can go beyond your marketing, web, and lot experience to include the back-office operations. Automotive dealers can be using digital retailing platforms to stock as well. 

Imagine that a previous customer who trusts you and your dealership reaches out about buying a new car. Normally, if your dealership doesn’t have the car they want, you could lose the sale. However, by buying cars at an auction like ACV Auctions, you can quickly source the vehicles you need. Simply input the customer’s requirements, find another dealer that is selling the auto wholesale, and win the vehicle in as few as 20 minutes.

What’s more, you can also provide accurate trade-in information if you’re open to wholesaling the used car. Ask your potential buyer to provide the appraisal and share it with ACV.  In short order, you can get a competitive trade-in value based on what a dealer will pay for the vehicle. 

Finally, ACV's industry-leading vehicle condition reporting gives a purchasing customer confidence. The entire transaction and buying experience hit all the marks of the ideal digital retailing experience. ACV’s online auctions are personalized, seamless, and transparent.

The Future of Vehicle Showrooms

The auto industry is changing before our eyes. To stay competitive, it’s clear that automotive dealerships should prioritize digital retailing strategies. Connecting with customers online before they ever enter your showroom and marketing your dealership online is the way forward for 2022 and beyond. If you haven’t started already, it’s not too late to evaluate your car buying experience process and make the changes you need to expand your reach. Ready to get cracking? Start finding great inventory by registering below. We look forward to working with you at ACV Auctions


  1. AutoFi. “The Definitive Guide to Automotive Digital Retailing” Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.autofi.com/blog/automotive-digital-retailing/