Dealerships have been heeding the call to build an expansive online presence in order to sell used cars and hard-to-sell vehicles for some time now. However, as more dealers are realizing that other parts of the dealership, such as parts and accessories and new cars, have a viable and active market online, they begin to transform into virtual dealerships with all aspects of the sales floor available online.

In addition to a complementary sales channel, dealerships are finding that the Internet is a powerful lead generation tool helping to market the dealership and drive traffic to their showroom. Relationships and customer service are essential to developing business leads, and online tools aid in the process to help form those bonds.

Sites such as eBay Motors attract wider audiences and create direct interest and leads for dealerships through offerings with well-planned descriptions, photos and consistent communication. Online automotive sites are filling a greater role in consumers’ automotive purchase process, as the number of physical dealerships decline.

According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Used Vehicle Market Report, the Internet has been growing in importance year-over-year as a source of used-vehicle information and as the preferred method used to shop for vehicles. Also noteworthy, the Internet has surpassed driving to dealer lots as the preferred method among automotive shoppers for locating the vehicle they ultimately purchase, 31 percent versus 28 percent.

To gain the attention of this online audience, it takes a concentrated effort to tell a story through words and images, create virtual connections with potential customers, and develop a digital process to take an individual from prospective buyer to satisfied customer.

Attracting and leveraging online leads is an ongoing process. It’s no longer sufficient to post an image and price and wait for customers to buy. Now, it involves a method of ensuring a continual flow of leads come into the dealership by cultivating relationships with all bidders and viewers, not just those who buy or win an online auction.

In order to best leverage online leads, eBay Motors recommends these steps:

Tell a story. In an online listing, give the bidders a feeling for the vehicle with descriptions that make someone want to buy it. Vehicles are often an emotional purchase, so make sure that emotion is properly articulated.

Show every angle. Similar to real estate listings, online buyers are no longer content with a few images. Provide them with interior and exterior photos from every angle, as well as a walk-around video.

Follow up. Connect with every bidder. Even if the bidder has a single bid at the starting price, follow up and initiate contact. Many dealers find that a simple, “Do you have any questions?” can lead to future sales, even if that bidder does not win that particular listing.

Choose the best pricing strategy. Evaluate whether the vehicle will best be marketed to local consumers through a classified listing, or to a national audience through auction-style pricing or Buy It Now.?

When using the Internet to boost leads through online auctions, treat bidders as educated buyers looking to make a purchase. These potential customers have made an offer to purchase a vehicle and have done the virtual walk-around. Even if that bidder doesn’t end up as the winner, he or she will have a good impression of the dealership and can become a future satisfied customer.

Vol. 7, Issue 5

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