2021: It’s time to make your dealership shine online

OPE Business has turned to Shawn Puckett, director of Product Management at ARI, to provide insight on how to make your dealership shine online to grow sales in 2021.

By Shawn Puckett

Contributing writer

It’s no surprise anymore that e-commerce is growing — and rapidly. Digital Commerce 360’s 2020 US e-Commerce Market Report estimates that e-commerce will experience a 40% growth in 2020, more than it has achieved in the last 20 years. The Saturday following Thanksgiving, global e-commerce increased 51% and global website traffic increased 28%, according to Salesforce.

Unlike the olden days of strictly in-store shopping, customers who shop online are not restricted to only local businesses. Now they have nearly unlimited options online when choosing their next purchase or maintenance service. So, how do you narrow down a dealership customer’s extensive list of options to your dealership? ARI suggests the following tactics to help your brand stand out from the competition:

Dedicated Digital Marketing

Online marketing has become a necessity to get in front of dealership prospects. With the majority of consumers now starting their buying journey online, dealers need to have a strong online presence in order to make a connection. Investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps your website rank highly in local search results so that you can pull in more organic online traffic. Paid ads such as pay-per-click (PPC), social media and video promote your dealership to shoppers whose online behavior aligns with your services.

Streamlined Business Listings

More than half of online business listings contain inconsistent and even inaccurate information. Not only does this make it difficult for businesses to be found and contacted by prospects, but their website rankings can suffer as well. Review all of the digital directories where your dealership is listed — including search engines, social media and GPS — to ensure your information is correct and consistent across the board.

360-Degree Walkarounds of Units

Imagine being able to offer your prospects a full 360-degree spin of whichever unit they’re browsing on your website or on a third-party platform. More than half of shoppers reported that they would purchase a product after viewing a 360-degree walkaround, even if they had not seen the product in person. Enhancing the appeal of your online showroom will entice more shoppers to interact with your platform.

User-Friendly Online Shopping Platforms

Whether you offer e-commerce directly on your website or through third-party classifieds, it’s crucial to offer your shoppers a pleasant and hassle-free experience. In addition to genuine, high-quality images of your inventory, make sure shoppers have easy access to all of the information they may need, such as pricing or financing options, a secure method to submit payment (if you offer online payment options), a digital contact submission form and a way to contact your business with questions.

Live Online Chat

Live chat is one of the most preferred methods of contacting a business. Forrester reported that more than 30% of customers expect business websites to feature a live chat option, and when browsing on a mobile device the expectation for live chat doubles. However, despite the high demand for easy communication, Super Office revealed that only 9% of businesses currently offer live chat. By implementing a live chat tool that’s available to shoppers on your website, you can and connect with a higher concentration of online leads. Best of all, prospects are 85% more likely to convert into customers after chatting with a business online!

Quality Customer Service

The quality of your customer service is the overall deciding factor of a sales conversion. Your commitment to customer service should be one of your dealership’s core values and should drive every factor of your online shopping process. From the very first interaction, whether it’s an email, phone call, live chat or even just a visit to your website, you can demonstrate to online shoppers that your dealership will take great care of their shopping needs.

The sooner you connect with online shoppers, the more likely you are to secure their business and foster the relationship down the path from initial purchase to loyal customer. Make sure your dealership stands out online, from the initial eye-catching paid ad to the fully equipped website platform and stupendous customer care. 

Shawn Puckett is director of Product Management at ARI Network Services, Inc.

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