More Signs Of The “E-Commerce Dawn” In Automotive Retail

January 10, 2014

A colleague passed along a 2013 year-end report from the United Kingdom-based dealer IT research firm Woods and Seaton.

The report details some of the high-profile acquisitions that occurred in the past year as DMS and specialty vendors vie to provide dealers here and abroad with integrated solutions to increase efficiencies and profitability in their dealerships. Examples include DealerTrack’s recent acquisition of, and Reynolds & Reynolds’ acquisition of companies to aid its data mining and digital marketing offerings.

But I was particularly struck by the report’s overview of e-commerce-related efforts underway among IT providers and OEMs across the globe.

FerrariManufacturers like BMW, Mercedes Benz and Nissan are selling vehicles directly to consumers via the Internet in Europe and India. In the U.S., meanwhile, the report highlights GM’s “Shop-Click-Drive” effort as one OEM-driven effort that essentially seeks to complete every aspect of a deal—aside from the test drive and close—online.

The report also notes that IT providers continue to offer dealers more tools to build their e-commerce presence and process. The report says “the technology for complete on-line sales advanced significantly” in the past year; it also says consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere are “increasingly willing to buy online.”

None of these developments surprises on its own. But collectively, I believe they signal a call to action for dealers.

The call to action is this: The time has come to formulate, if not execute, an e-commerce strategy at your dealership to meet the needs of customers who want more efficient, technology-enabled ways to purchase (and service) vehicles. Likewise, as dealers craft these strategies, I believe it’s important to recognize the effort as an opportunity to reinvent organizational structure and process to maximize efficiencies, allowing you to serve more customers more effectively and improve your bottom line.