In today’s Internet savvy market, all kinds of business are changing the way they do things in order to keep up with consumers, and car dealerships are no exception. More than just a celebrity appearance or some sort of free food, car deals are finding ways to engage with the online community.
In recent weeks, Facebook users have been participating in what’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” as a way to raise funding and awareness for ALS, the disease also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The idea is that people virtually nominate their friends to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads and donate to the ALS research fund. They post a video of the potentially embarrassing icy experiment onto their social media pages, then name a list of friends who then have 24 hours to do the same. Recently, a dealership in Connecticut made the news when the staff participated and the dealership promised to donate in conjunction with each share or like the video received. In another similar instance, a car dealership in Fargo, ND did the challenge, then used its nominations to call out competing car dealers. This is a prime example of how car dealerships are using the power of memes and other online phenomena to gain publicity.
In a recent article for a Canadian publication called The Globe and Mail, one reporter shed light on a change in customer habits; because it’s so easy nowadays to research purchases online, especially automobiles, most people know what they want before they even step foot on the lot. This means that sales people can’t rely on high-pressure sales tactics and outdated tricks of the trade to goad drivers into a car they’re not familiar with, that they may not even actually want.
The Internet is helping keep car dealerships honest in other ways. Consider the web company, CARFAX, which keeps a record of service, collisions, and other relevant data is particular important to the used car market. Knowing the history of a pre-owned vehicle has gone a long way toward helping drivers avoid buying a lemon, and make more informed investments.
Seasonal timing is another factor that can be influenced by Internet resources. TrueCar, a website devoted to informing buyers about car pricing and related matters, recently announced that August is the best month to buy a car in 2014. We’ve come a long way from roughly estimating a car’s worth using solely the Kelley Blue Book.
In spite of all these changes, cars sales continue to increase. For the third consecutive year in a row, “throughput” on US car dealers (meaning the average number of cars being sold per store), has risen. It’s safe to say that while the presence of the Internet has changed the way cars are bought and sold, it certainly doesn’t mean the end of car dealerships.