Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Digital and Customer Experience: Where are we going wrong?

If you spend any time reading industry articles, going to conferences like NADA, or studying automotive, you know that digital drives sales. The online marketplace and frictionless sales process has disrupted the old school sales cycle and empowered the consumer to own the purchasing experience.

This is where we need to be and this is how we need to operate.

Google realizes the struggle for automotive to keep up with the fast paced changes and has created a playbook for dealers to help guide them through the most important elements to stay relevant and optimized on search and display. This guidebook highlights why digital is so important:

  • Consumers are visiting less than two stores and buying from that one store they visit
  • You must capture and trust and attention of the consumer on your website
  • Your website is your digital storefront. If it is not optimized, it is like turning off the lights and locking the door of your dealership
  • Over 90% of all buyers have researched extensively online, and the majority have gone to 3rd party sites such as Edmunds, KBB, AutoTrader, CarGurus…

And many of you have taken the initiative to fix these items to ensure your customers have a positive experience on your site so you can keep them there.

  • Reduced load time (if it takes more than 3 seconds for your site to load—especially on mobile—your customer will bounce)
  • Maximize your images and CTA’s on the site
  • Made sure you enabled all extensions on Google, including Text, Call, and Price extensions

If you are doing all this, why aren’t you selling more cars? Why are you losing sales to other dealers in the area?

Customer Experience

Plain and Simple. Your customer experience is making or breaking your bottom line. Customer Experience is broken into three parts: Digital, Face-to-Face, and Personalization. All three together can make or break your month.


Your digital presence may be working great and generating traffic and leads, but if you are providing a subpar customer experience or not customizing the shopping experience for the individual, you are missing the mark and missing sales. Customers are used to the Amazon like experience, and demand these elements in other areas of their purchasing life.

Do you provide value from the first response?

Do you give as much information as possible, including pricing, when the customer initially asks?

Do you provide a way for the consumer to complete most or all of the purchasing process online and from home?

If you answer no to any of these questions, changes need to be made.

The good news is there is no lack of solutions for these issues. One great place to start is to look at Digital Retailing Platforms for your website. These vary from company to company, but can allow the customer to research, put cars in their cart, complete financing requests, and receive additional information. This is where car buying is at—not where it is going.


Personalization begins with search and website. Customers demand a personalized experience, and the first to give this will win in the loyalty game. There are many ways to do this, from utilizing the tools on your website to remarket real time, to sending personalized notes to low funnel customers when they send in leads.

How to you make the customer feel like the car buying experience is tailored to them? When I shop on Amazon, they offer me additional options based on my prior viewing and shopping experience. Things I did not realize I needed or wanted, but when offered in that platform, I generally bite.

Look into your current solutions and see what offerings you are not taking advantage of that would meet this need.


Once you get the consumer in the store, what are you doing to keep them from leaving? It’s critical that you find ways to personalize the experience while at the dealership. In a study completed by Cox Automotive, 77% of people surveyed stated that the most satisfying part of the car buying process was the test drive. 73% of all people surveyed stated that Sales Interactions were incredibly important and influential.

Even though people want to customize and personalize their experience and complete much of the information online, the most powerful part for them is time spent with your team in the dealership. Find ways to decrease time in the dealership and increase customer satisfaction. Imagine if the only things needed to do at the dealership was to test drive and receive a consultation from the salesperson. Everything else could be completed online or at home.

Maximize this face-to-face time. If someone comes into your dealership odds are they have completed at least 10 hours of online research and shopping and choose you. How are you ensuring that they are wowed and want to purchase from only you?

Think With Google just pushed out an amazing article on the heels of NADA that highlights one store doing just this – Personalization and Customer Focus. If you think personalization is impractical or ineffective, read the results from Paragon Honda.

Now What?

  • Be sure to read the Think With Google article and see what process changes can be made to meet the customer where they are
  • Review all of your current solutions (website, remarketing, equity mining) and see what types of personalization they currently offer. Many times there are elements you are not even using that will make a huge difference in the personalization and customer experience
  • Think outside the box – how can you make every interaction with the customer – both online and in-dealership – a personalized and welcoming experience?
Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.