How can car dealers prepare for online sales and take e-commerce to the next level?

Time 5:33 pm, May 13, 2020

Car dealerships across the country are planning a new way of working – with online sales at their core.

As the public gets used to social distancing as a new way of life, the traditional way of buying a new car won’t be coming back for some time.

In the first of a series of Car Dealer Knowledge videos and articles, we have chatted to Martin Dew and David Levett for Autoweb Design about not only how dealers can make the most of online sales – but how they can take e-commerce to the next level.

In the video interview above, Dew and Levett give us their top tips for getting an online sales solution in place and importantly how to make the most of it when it’s there.

Here, the team answers our questions, but watch the full interview above for their top tips.

Many dealerships are planning an online sales solution to get them back to work – what do they need to think about? 

Having a clear, well defined strategy is key. 

We firmly believe in the ethos of ‘people buy from people”. Clearly that principle is challenging in the current climate, given that (most) dealers are closed but the essence remains the same. 

Leveraging your DMS/CRM systems, embracing technology and being proactive within the social arena are three key considerations. 

Tone of voice, humour and ad-hoc conversation can be transitioned into video for example, with relative ease.

What is the most important thing to think about when it comes to setting up a dealer website for online sales?

It’s important to remember that the automotive industry is still in its infancy when it comes to e-commerce. 

In virtually every other walk of life, transacting online is relatively simple – in the car industry we have large ticket items, finance, warranties and optional extras to consider. 

Therefore, dealers need to make it as easy as possible for their customers by being clear and concise regarding purchases, policies, deliveries and returns. 

How can car dealers drive traffic to that site?

In the current environment, we would advocate a multi-channel approach to drive traffic with a solid social media strategy as the foundation. 

Over the last couple of months we’ve seen globally, a downturn in organic traffic, which has understandably been a cause for concern for many dealers. 

It’s important to remember, though, eventually organic traffic volumes will return. 

It’s prudent for dealers to retain their visibility during this time. That means keeping the SEO and PPC tactics in situ.

It is equally important to be fluid with your strategy. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

Dealers are going to need to do business differently in the future – how can dealers adapt? 

Customers obviously can’t (in most cases) visit a showroom, so it’s important for dealers to understand exactly what their audiences are looking for and engaging with, whether that be via social media, email, live chat and appreciate that the process for buying a car has changed. That means being pre-emptive with your customers and managing their expectations.  

What tools can dealers use to improve the online shopping experience?

At Autoweb, we provide a means for dealers to display vehicles and transact online – it’s not just a website. We currently offer free live chat, free chat bots, we offer -commerce as standard, not as an additional extra. Video chat is possibly the biggest game changer in the current environment.

What new technologies do you think will be important for dealers?

Technology moves at an alarming rate. We believe enhanced video technologies such as augmented reality will play a big part in the future, especially when coupled with a well-conceived, ecommerce solution.

How have you seen web traffic and social media interactions change over the past few weeks?

In times of austerity or duress, social media is often the linchpin that holds everything together. 

With the decline of organic traffic, social media has naturally become a central focal point for most industries, not just automotive. 

We’ve observed the stark differences in how social media has been embraced and how those strategies have changed over the recent weeks, with a shift away from the ‘transactional’ post to the more ‘informative’ and ‘collaborative’ posting.   

How important is content to car dealers?

Content is vital to anyone operating within the digital space, perhaps now more than ever, but it is important to appreciate that ‘good’ content writing is a niche skill.

Social media content is equally as important, although the metrics for gauging success are different. The all important aspect of social content, excluding frequency of course, is tone of voice. We don’t advocate outsourcing social content for this reason. 

As with anything in the digital arena, use your data to make decisions. It doesn’t matter how well something is written, if your audience doesn’t engage with the content, change it, and test again.

If the focus shifts towards online in the near future, how will dealers set themselves apart from competitors? 

Dealers will set themselves apart from their competitors by immersing themselves in the digital arena, appreciating the symbiotic relationship between the various channels, understanding and utilising data and nurturing their leads. 

Visibility is the all-important factor. Your customers need to find you to interact with you, whether that is via organic searching, social media or paid media.

For more information, visit call 01757 211700

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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