Digital car deals are not just here, they are inevitable. Trends across all retail sectors show increased reliance on the internet to find, weigh, and complete purchases and the automotive industry is no different.

Much has been said on how dealerships can break into the digital arena and start engaging successfully with their customers online. It’s time to turn the spotlight onto the other side of the coin: common mistakes dealerships make when taking to the virtual stage and how these mistakes can be avoided. 

Not Understanding the Medium

At first glance, a dealership may assume that using the internet for sales simply means transferring their traditional methods to a digital platform. This means that instead of mailing flyers to customers, they’re e-mailing them, and instead of buying billboards they’re splashing ad after ad on Facebook.

This strategy is ineffective. The internet is more than just an ad bulletin board or mailbox, it’s a collection of social spaces, each with their own rules, similar to social areas in the real world. You don’t interact in a library the same way you do at a mall food court or at a movie theater.

Web pages need to be optimized to fit the form of access–mobile, tablet, etc.–and the content needs to conform to the various styles of communication used on different sites. For example, on Twitter you’ll be using limited text to engage, while on Instagram you’ll be using visuals. 

Not Going All in With a Plan mistakes

This mistake is two-fold. The first part is not going all in. This means investing 100% in digitizing your dealership and its services. This doesn’t mean shutting down your physical office, but it does mean seeing your virtual office as just as real and important as the one you walk into every day. Many dealers wade into the online slowly, adding services and accounts slowly. This approach will lead them far behind.

Which leads to the second part of this mistake: not having a plan. It’s important to jump in and invest, but without a comprehensive plan, chances are you will drown in a digital sea. Take the time to plan your presence out like a well-ordered campaign, knowing in advance what your goals are, who is in charge of what and how different accounts will look and feel. You may want even to hire a PR firm to help you navigate branding online. 

Not Having a Long-Term Plan

In addition to not having a plan, many fall short in not having a long-term strategy. They know they want to transfer things to digital platforms but haven’t thought too much about what the switch might look like down the line.

Moving to digital might mean that you’ll be transferring some of your floor staff to working online or hiring on IT experts. Your plan should also be flexible as the internet changes all the time, and you’ll need to be able to change with it. 

Not Having Everyone On Board

To sell online, you’ll need to sell the plan to your staff. Your team needs to be as invested and motivated as you are. Offer them the opportunity to literally buy-in so that the successes of your platforms are the successes of the entire team. 

Not Giving Yourself Time

Finally, it is crucial you give yourself time when starting an online retail presence. Be patient with yourself, staff, and nascent internet storefront. Just like it takes time to set up a physical dealership, and time before that site starts showing its profitability, virtual markets need the same time to mature into themselves.

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