Thirteen Ways Dealers Can Tackle Inventory Shortages

Industry crises such as the global chip shortage can be daunting for any business. However, working daily to address gaps in the business will help dealers ensure they will continue to serve their customers now and in the future.

Ryan Soffa

August 5, 2021

4 Min Read
Truck at dealership (Getty)
Used vehicles can be key to keep customers coming amid tight inventories.Getty Images

The computer-chip shortage has slowed factories and sales of new vehicles, draining dealer lots, reducing days’ supply and slowing throughput, causing dealers to rethink how they serve their customers. Meanwhile, consumers have had to delay purchases, switch brands and explore third-party offerings, all of which drive up demand and prices.

However, there are 13 tactics dealers can employ to address these issues, boost sales and retain the loyalty of their customers.

  1. Boost your used-vehicle acquisition efforts and build inventory from private sellers. Be sure to have cash offer trade-in tools on your website, in your showroom and in all marketing to buy vehicles from customers (i.e., TAL – The Appraisal Lane, boost acquisition, etc.). Hyperfocus salespeople on asking for the trade-in at every customer interaction.

  2. Offer a lease extension to lease customers, which serves as a service opportunity and future sales opportunity.

  3. Bolster your Certified Pre-Owned program as an avenue to offer the same, similar or better warranty as new vehicles with roadside assistance for the entire warranty period/mileage. This keeps the shopper loyal, on-brand and in-market.

  4. Sell out of service. Have a dedicated salesperson working out of the service department to help get more trade-ins and assist shoppers in upgrading their vehicle to build your used inventory.

  5. Leverage your database. Traffic off the street can be costly and difficult. Your sales team must contact their “sold” customers and get them back into the dealership before they are actively shopping for a car.  

  6. Feature accurate inventory with dynamic ad technology – Adopt dynamic ad technology that syncs with the stock on your website to target customers with unique, model-specific ads featuring in-stock inventory and up-to-date pricing. When you present potential customers with ads tailored to their true purchasing interests, dynamic campaigns result in more clicks and a higher conversion rate. If you have a sufficient number of used units on the lot, consider using dynamic used-inventory advertising as well.

  7. Optimize digital ads – Work closely with your digital advertising partners to make real-time pivots to digital advertising promotions that ensure they are constantly delivering offers on the latest new and used inventory. This serves in-market shoppers better by helping them avoid the frustration of falling in love with a vehicle only to find out it is no longer available.

  8. Focus your paid search on low-funnel keywords – This means adding search terms to your website and advertising that address what customers seek to learn or buy. Examples of these include “top fuel economy vehicles,” “long-range electric vehicles” or “best certified pre-owned vehicles.” Adding these phrases to your website and advertising makes it more likely you will come up in an online search.

  9. Continue your branded campaigns – While it’s unknown when the chip shortage will be over, it is essential to maintain your branded campaigns to keep your dealership top of mind for potential car buyers. Lock in your geotargeting and highlight the brand advantages that set your business apart from the competition.

  10. Leverage your parts and services campaigns – With limited vehicle inventory, generate new leads from potential customers who already own a vehicle with parts and services advertising. Ensure that your paid search ads are up to date and include relevant specials and promotions. If you want to take a more aggressive approach, consider layering in higher-funnel keywords beyond basic parts and service targeting to extend your location targeting to capture new markets.

  11. Advertise on car-buying-related keywords – Looking to increase your used-car inventory? Reach the people already interested in or actively trying to sell their cars. Direct the potential inventory toward your dealerships with paid search for keywords related to car buying. 

  12. Stick to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Like your branded campaigns, it’s essential to continue your SEO efforts to improve your site’s ranking on search engine results pages. Successful SEO is a long game, and the strength of your digital presence should not be interrupted by short-term inventory issues.

  13. Offer custom ordering - Connect with customers with leases scheduled to expire later this year and offer to help them custom order their next vehicle from the factory with an additional rebate and/or discount. This is an effective strategy in markets where leasing is common and helps customers stay within their preferred brand. Customers can fill out forms online or with the help of a salesperson who can complete their application via phone.



Industry crises such as the global chip shortage can be daunting for any business. However, working daily to address gaps in the business through the measures above will help dealers ensure they will continue to serve their customers now and in the years ahead.

Ryan Soffa (pictured, left) is Chief Product Officer at Unite Digital, a digital marketing company.

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