Competing with online retailers for better dealership growth

Competing with online retailers for better dealership growth

Until a few years ago, purchasing a vehicle without a test drive or seeing it in person was a rare exception. Most online vehicle purchases of this nature dealt with older vehicles or vehicles used for parts or projects. Most shoppers would prefer to shop at a dealership, where they could explore the vehicle at their leisure, ask questions, take a test drive, and complete the purchase face-to-face. Dealership growth relied on conventional shopping processes.

But then, COVID-19 changed how people work, purchase, and communicate. Zoom meetings replaced offices and classrooms, and businesses saw the potential in selling cars online. Physical dealerships began to improve their website user experience. They started offering online purchasing as a white-glove service, delivering new and used cars, trucks, and SUVs right to shoppers’ doors.

Then, online-only dealerships cropped up, allowing consumers to buy, trade in, and sell their vehicles without having to leave their homes. At one point, nearly three-quarters of Australians said they would be likely to purchase their vehicles online.

This news sounds alarming if you are a car dealership trying to win back customers from online dealers and bring them to your business. But how do you compete with a streamlined vehicle buying process that delivers cars straight to the customer's door?

The in-person shopping experience is not going away. Still, as a dealership, you must make in-person buying attractive to buyers who have come to accept online car buying as a normal occurrence.

You must give consumers a friction-free online and in-person experience that exceeds their expectations and offers them the convenience of an online purchase with the superior service of an in-person experience. There are many ways you can achieve this. Here are just a few strategies for dealership growth.

Invest in your online presence

Boosting your online presence is non-negotiable. With 80% of the buyer's journey happening online before even speaking to a salesperson, you must provide customers with a superior digital experience. Your website must be up-to-date and easy to navigate. Customers want to explore inventory, learn about the vehicle, ask questions, and set up appointments and test drives without having to leave their homes or work. If they can't achieve these things easily, they will move on.

How you can utilise technology for a streamlined customer experience

Technology is your friend when it comes to selling more cars and achieving profitable dealership growth. By offering a superior online experience, you ensure customers are invested in their process with you. Bring them in by allowing them to view your inventory and encourage them to set appointments or offer incentives for coming in to browse. Make the process between shopping online and shopping in-person seamless. Reassure them that coming to the dealership will be pain-free, efficient, and safe.

Using software to improve your sales process is also helpful. Creating goals, keeping everyone on the same page, and setting expectations while easily keeping tabs on your most important metrics helps improve your outcomes. 

Increase sales even with less inventory

The current automobile shortage isn't likely to disappear any time soon. But that doesn't have to hurt your sales. The single best way around this problem is to provide the best possible customer experience and to create an inviting atmosphere at your lot. 

Maximise the inventory you do have, and organise it effectively, showcasing vehicles you are most likely to sell. Also, focus on educating your sales reps so they can present your inventory in its best light. 

Listening to customers and introducing them to vehicles that will meet their needs (even if the one they wanted isn't available) is key. There may be long waiting lists for certain makes and models, so be ready to show them the inventory that best matches what they are looking for. 

Another important factor is clear communication with potential customers. Be transparent in your offerings to avoid frustration. Being clear about what you have to offer—and honest about what you don't have—builds trust. Offer them an amazing experience, and you will improve your dealership growth.

Increase your reach and sell more cars

Your online presence extends beyond your website. It's true that you must have a responsive website that is updated regularly and offers an excellent user experience. But your online presence doesn't stop there. You must also increase your reach via social media and other channels to create visibility and grow your dealership. Here are some tips: 

  • Maintain a consistent, on-brand social media presence. Be sure to post regularly and engage with viewers and followers. 
  • Create content that is informative, entertaining, and interesting. Be ready to answer questions and respond to comments. Encourage people to share your posts. 
  • Always include a call to action. This should be true for all your social media posts, and there should be clear calls to action throughout your website. 
  • Enlist the use of third-party websites to increase visibility, such as and other similar sites.

Offer special touches that make your customers feel welcome and comfortable. Also, streamline the auto-buying process to make in-person buying more attractive. Keep in mind that while purchasing vehicles online may have been born out of necessity during the pandemic, customers are continuing to turn to online dealerships for the frictionless, time-saving ease of the online buying process. 

This shows that convenience even trumps things like a test drive. This means that the easier and more pleasant you make the buying process, the better. With excellent customer service and the right sales software, you will experience dealership growth.

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