online car retailers

The pandemic elicited an exponential rise in the use of online car retailers. Here’s how you can keep up and protect your business.

The days of brick and mortar establishments began to dwindle years ago, but the used car industry always seemed safe since buying a car is such a big decision and preferably involves in-person interactions. However, when COVID-19 came around, online car retailers began popping up everywhere, threatening many small businesses that may already be struggling to keep above water.

One small consolation is that even though the popularity of online car retailers has gone up, it’s likely that many people will return to the in-person experience when it’s safe to do so. Still, traditional dealerships need to find ways to adapt and be ready to accommodate online car shoppers.

If you’re concerned about online car retailers putting you out of business, read on to learn how you can help prevent that from happening. Remember that while some of these tips may require an investment, it’s probably worth it for you since online car retailers will continue to get more popular.

5 Ways you can beat the competition from online car retailers

1. Fight fire with fire

Perhaps the greatest defense against online retailers is to beef up your dealership’s online presence. In addition to having a great website that’s easy to navigate, appealing to look at, and informative for potential customers, you may also want to improve your actual ability to sell a car online. Yes, that can take a lot of work, but unfortunately, selling cars online probably isn’t going away, even if it does slow down. While we don’t think it’s necessary to fully convert to an online business, improving your online presence will undoubtedly help you compete with those dealerships that are only online.

2. Use technology to get in touch

Apart from doing more business online, there are several ways to reduce the threat that online car retailers present. One of the most important is to be in touch with leads and past customers regularly. Leveraging technology like AutoRaptor, you can easily get in touch with dormant customers, new leads, and everyone in between. You can even automate some tasks, like email follow-up, and schedule reminders for yourself so you reach the maximum number of people and don’t forget anyone who might turn into a sales opportunity.

3. Prospect proactively

One advantage you have over online car retailers is that you likely already have a proactive business model for getting in touch with people. Double-down on that. Online retailers rely on people coming to them more than on developing prospects, so if you persist here, you may get to someone before they decide to go online for a car-buying experience. Look for new leads regularly, qualify them as quickly as you can, and get in touch even faster. This not helps to sell more cars because you’ll hopefully catch people before online does, but people also really do prefer the personal touch and are more likely to respond favorably to something tailored to them rather than a generic marketing campaign that’s only tailored to a broad audience.

4. Diversify your inventory

If your used car lot is looking pretty homogenous, it might be time to get more variety in so you can attract more customers. That’s easier said than done, especially at a time when inventory is one of the biggest challenges for used car dealerships, but that’s precisely what the more successful online retailers offer, so you want to be able to compete with that. Even if your typical customer base is primarily interested in SUVs, get your hands on some other types of vehicles, launch a marketing campaign, and see who bites. You might be surprised.

5. Expand your geographic reach

Increasing your presence beyond your usual geographic area is another excellent way to land new customers who might have otherwise succumbed to online car retailers. This may require some travel on the part of your sales team and will definitely require some work by your marketing team, but hopefully, you’ll find it to be worth the investment since those customers will still be around after the pandemic and in an ideal world will spread the word about how great your dealership is. Only you know how far is comfortable for your dealership to reach, but if you can expand even a little, we think it will help a lot.

Online car retailers might be a new type of competition, but it’s unlikely they can offer the personalized service that your dealership can. And that’s where you have an undeniable advantage. 

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