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Nearly nine of 10 shoppers are more likely to buy from a dealer that offers online checkout although few people fully buy a vehicle online, Weinberg says.

Auto Dealerships Become ‘Click and Mortar’ Spots

Today’s auto consumers rely on the Internet to shop and research vehicles, but physical stores still play a big role, says Matt Weinberg of Drive Motors, a company that provides online car-buying services.

Brick and mortar – a term referring to a physical retail presence – has given way to a more modern car dealership setup: click and mortar.

“We live in a click-and-mortar world,” says Matt Weinberg, a senior vice president at Drive Motors, a company that offers online buying features on websites of client dealerships.

His point is that the physical dealership still plays a vital role, even though it has a digital supporting cast. “Most people still want to visit the store for the ‘fit and feel,’” he says at a recent DrivingSales Executive Summit.

They do plenty of digital shopping and research both before and in between dealership visits. Consequently, digital car shopping isn’t as linear as some people may think.

Some people go online, then visit the dealership, then go back online before finally pulling the purchase trigger and returning to the dealership.

“Before and after a showroom visit, some people will go to the dealer website,” Weinberg says.

Drive Motors offers consumers the ability to buy a vehicle online, then go to the dealership to pick it up and wrap up the paperwork. Some people indeed do that, and “the bigger the order, the greater the likelihood,” Weinberg says. (Matt Weinberg, left) 

Most car buyers don’t go all-in digitally. Yet Drive Motors data indicates people like the presence of advanced online buying features, even if they don’t use all of them.

Nearly nine of 10 shoppers are more likely to buy from a dealer that offers online checkout on its website, even though most don’t fully buy a vehicle online, Weinberg says. It’s the difference between consumer preference and actual behavior.

About 70% of consumers who use Drive Motors do so during off-hours when dealerships are closed, and 50% of them use smartphones, he says.

On the surface, digital vehicle buying seems to preclude a dealership’s ability to sell finance and insurance products, such as extended warranties.

But Weinberg says, “If a customer picks up a vehicle that’s purchased online, there’s still the opportunity to present F&I products.” That includes a chance for the F&I manager to do a “needs analysis” by asking customers specific questions. Those include:

  • “What are you looking for in a vehicle?”
  • “What do you like about your current vehicle?”
  • "What one thing would you change about it?”

Online exposure to F&I products doubles the chances of a customer ultimately buying them, says Weinberg, who previously worked for dealerships.

He offers a six-step “action plan” for today’s click-and-mortar dealerships.  

1.     Provide the right information at the right time by marketing across all communication channels.

2.     Don’t overwhelm consumers with irrelevant information.

3.     Don’t force the sale.

4.     Retarget by sending reminders to tracked website visitors.

5.     Create and act on opportunities to sell F&I.

6.     Offer time-saving solutions.   

“Trust is what really sells cars today,” he says. “When you are talking about customer experience, you are talking about trust.”



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