To all my industry peers...How crucial is it in todays automotive environment to have a solid working E-Commerce Department? I was working with an auto group in K.C. the last two weeks and they decided to stay horse and buggy. I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions. Please accept my many thanks in advance for your time and consideration and make it a great day.

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Comment by Marc Whitchurch on August 27, 2010 at 7:22am
I've recently been hired to head up the online strategy for a group of dealerships. My background is social media and online business, so I have experience in a wide range of internet business models.
Not sure exactly what type of e-commerce model you are referring to, but let me offer these observations.
The automotive industry seems to be slow in embracing web 2.0 as a general means of practice, of which e-comm is one part.

Sure, everyone has a website, and many are using auto specific keyword searchcampaignsto drive traffic to their site Where I really see us lacking is embracing social media, and understanding the rapidly changing impact of the internet.
Customer needs and expectations have changed dramatically even in the last few years. They now expect businesses to have a presence not only in a traditional website, but also on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks.
I liken this to the dawn of the advent of email. I clearly remember when email was the"new" way of communicating with our customers. I also remember many who questioned the benefit of having email as a valid tool. Can you imagine being without it now?
So, I'd suggest that e-comm should be one of a broad range of net tools any dealer should be considering. It is just a matter of time that we will all have to make the leap into this next generation of communication channels.
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Comment by Heather Graham on August 26, 2010 at 12:15pm
In this day and age, if a dealership wants to grow, they def. need a solid e-Commerce Dept....and that dept should be front and center and report directly to GM/Owner. That person/group is managing the dealers presence on many platforms (hopefully), on many different levels, and for the entire dealership. Online presence is not just about sales anymore, it encompasses all departments. If they are going to go forward than then need to have a solid presence in the platforms that they choose. This is often where dealers pull back....leave one foot in, but keep the other out (or in old school!).
Cheers, Heather
Comment by Bill Goodfriend on August 24, 2010 at 9:00pm
Here is the critical factor in this discussion. By what means are dealer's trying to focus their means of an online presence thereby inceasing phone-up's and actual walk in's? For instance, I gave the dealership I applied to every means of prudent information to help them in their future endeavors regarding multimedia marketing even if they chose not to hire me so that they could make a well informed decision; including the Do's and the Dont's. I included this information because I knew that they would try to forge on themselves without asking for help. Funny thing last week...they chose to spot an open advetisement on FB touting their latest event. While it always is an optimistic push it garnered 2 negative posts in turn receiving 680 views from others affiliated through friend networks. I emailed the GM this information so that he could try to understand the crucial dynamics of getting involved with social media marketing. No thank you's as I did not expect one, but I hope that they get the message; and yes, I told them how to prevent this from happening again and that was my last freebe. Bottom line remains in this question, which has garnered alot of great responses. How in the world do you intend on implementing a process when you don't have a clue as to what it is that you are wanting? You don't know what you don't know!
Comment by Nicolas Warren on August 23, 2010 at 2:40pm
Where are dealers using technology? Acquiring leads? Selling cars? Attracting buyers?

E-commerce is essential and to forgo the web is to show up empty-handed to a sword fight.

There are tons of applications of every different technology, from CRM to Online Inventory to phone numbers for text coupons. I think the best application of a technology is with a goal in mind, and direct sales is not the right metric. It's about the net expenditure vs. income.

Like a CRM or even just a computer, having an E-commerce side is an expense that will enable more business to be done and increase the bottom line.
Comment by Bill Uttich on August 23, 2010 at 10:35am
How do they utlize their web site? Go back 10-12 years and the dealers were fighting the fact that customers were going online to find the cars they wanted and dealers used their web site for the address and phone number for the most part.
Comment by Catherine Edwards on August 18, 2010 at 4:34pm
We live in a world of digital transparency. As a result, consumers now drive the front end of the car buying process. They have instant access to all the information they need to be savvy car buyers well before they show up at the dealership. Technology is available for auto dealers so that they can respond right away to the customer with the information that he or she is looking for. Progressive dealers know they need to adapt their business practices to take advantage of this shift and are actively testing new ways to sell.
Comment by Ed Wilczek on August 17, 2010 at 7:45pm
With over half of all transactions for vehicles being at least partially completed online, and having over 90% of all car buyers using the internet at some point during the purchase process, it's hard to believe that any modern dealer would continue in a "horse-and-buggy".

So what makes a great e-Commerce Department? I think it's personality. Assuming all dealers in a local market are offering the same or substantially similar products and pricing, it comes back to the person who can convince the buyer why his/her dealer is the one to choose. Responding to a buyer with a form lead, while it gets the information to the buyer, leaves little to engage the buyer with. People don't just want a robot, they want someone who can understand and empathize with their situation, their needs, and their wants.

Ed Wilczek
Business Development Manager
Apex Online Auctions, INC.
708-306-2052 mobile
Comment by Matthew J. Kelly on August 17, 2010 at 4:04pm
Hey Bill!

Many dealerships it appears these days are using technology more on an everyday basis everyday! Without it, in my opinion, a dealership cannot completely succeed. In today's society we need/have to embrace it because the current 20 plus generation and everyone following it is growing up with it and its an everyday commodity. I personally can tell you I have two Iphone's and I don't know if that is enough.

Technology is also becoming very crucial in getting customers into the showroom. Without the Internet dealerships are missing out on many, many opportunities because that's where all the shopping begins.

Good Luck!

Matthew J. Kelly

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