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Promises, Promises.

Dealers:  What is said, what is desired, what is understood and the effect on your online sales and consumer satisfaction.

Much has been written about the decline in the effectiveness of traditional media advertising and the rise of the Internet.  Today the Internet is everywhere and the medium of choice for almost every demographic, but why?

Especially as it pertains to car dealer use of newspaper advertisements, "Is the well documented decline in consumer response rates because":

  1. Consumers do not have enough information to assess whether the message constitutes fair value?
  2. The medium is too flat to do more than pique initial curiousity?
  3. Consumers do not believe the message?  $299/month, $1,999 due at signing, only 3 in stock, and a whole lot of non-committal small print.

It is especially this last point which gives me pause.  The Internet like newspapers before it, is just a tool.  A means to an end.  As a car dealer or manufacturer (OEM), that end is a profitable car sale.

The problem with a message like #3 above is that quite often it would be used to lure a consumer in, only for them to find that "the deal" was actually something quite different. 

A promise was made, but was not kept.

The result of decades of that is the often noted, not always deserved, yet widespread sentiment that is unfavorable to car dealers and car dealer salespeople.  It is bad for brand and worse for reputation.

When given the first available opportunity (the Internet), consumers flocked en masse to the new medium where they felt they would be able to be better informed and be able to avoid such distasteful experiences.

In the early days of the Internet, these fleeing consumers ran smack dab into the waiting arms of well-funded, Dotcom era companies promising them a better experience.  As it turned out, that was a trainwreck.  There has never been enough gross profit in a car purchase for BOTH an additional middleman to share in the gross profit AND provide a "guaranteed lower price" to the consumer.  The pie is only so big and even though it is a big ticket item, margins are tight.

The promise of a better experience remains the best marketing message a dealer or OEM can use.  Scion literally built its brand around it on the Internet, just as Saturn did it the offline world. 

A better experience allows a more profitable strategy to be executed since the majority of consumers value it and will therefore pay for it.

Now back to your dealership or if you are an OEM, your online dealership channel.

  • What is the spoken or unspoken promise between your website and a consumer who submits a lead?
    • Better experience?
    • Better price?
    • Do you set an expectation?
    • Why or why not?
    • If you do, what is it?
  • How do you respond to it?
    • Rapid fire price response?
    • Gather more info (why isn't that part of asking for the lead)?
    • Come in to store if want info?
  • From your consumers' point of view, are they getting a better experience than if they came in to your showroom?
  • Than if they went to your competitor's website?
  • What can you do to set yourself apart?

At Ai-Dealer we worked long and hard to find the right balance as we sought to define and communicate the expectation of a better experience without compromising either delivering upon what was promied or the ability to produce effective sales results.  Dealers using our system promise consumers a better car buying experience via a complete online eCommerce shopping cart process.  In order to get in to it and in exchange for a validated email address, the consumer gets what they were promised - the whole deal just as if they were in the showroom.

What is the result?  Conversion rates (the percentage of visitors to your site who become leads) go up and response rates to your follow up activities go up too.  Both direct click through and buy sales happen and more offline sales happen from more and better leads as a result.

Do consumers feel they got what they were promised with our system?  Well, in the words of one reviewer...

"I thought I'd put it to the ultimate test.. what did my wife think?  She's pretty crafty you know.  She selected the Camry and breezed through the rest of the process... She got a kick out of how the avatar's eyes followed the mouse and how it changed facial expressions... Now my wife has purchased a vehicle before, but it sounded like this was the first time she completely grasped the itemized breakdown of the deal."

Finally, we let our dealer customers set themselves apart from their competitive dealers since (for now anyway), we are the only system provider in the market with a complete shopping cart eCommerce system for a dealers.  We provide a franchise-exclusive territory for our dealer customers to promote their competitive advantage.

Consumer trust is a terrible thing to waste, especially when the alternative is so powerful, sustainable and profitable.

What are you doing about it?

Click here to go to or return to Ai-Dealer's Forum and post your thoughts and comments on this article.