UXBRIDGE, ONT. – Ask Jim Williamson, Williamson Chrysler dealer and store general manager, why his store’s website has a digital deal feature and he’ll tell you it’s part of the way auto retail is changing and his dealership has to change with it.
“Our industry is always changing and I feel as a company we work hard to make sure we are part of that curve, and part of that is products such as digital dealing,” Williamson says.
Williamson Chrysler is located in the hamlet of Uxbridge, population about 21,000, in the Durham Region, east of Toronto.
But the dealer doesn’t see size and location as handicaps.
That’s because of the Internet, which lets consumers find his dealership. But to deal with the Internet customer, his store had to change to compete. The competition he’s talking about isn’t other dealers; it’s companies like Amazon.
“Companies outside of our industry are creating easy online purchasing environments for customers… As a dealership, we are trying to find a way to compete with that type of customer experience.”
Williamson’s store chose e-Dealer’s website/content management system and digital feature after a two-year audition.
“We wanted to make sure we were joining with a provider that would help us keep up with ever-changing demand and solve problems.”
He says e-Dealer passed the test and traffic has gone up.
“Our traffic has risen very steadily with this product and we continue to grow our sales month in month out and this is related very much to our change in our digital strategy,” he says.
Williamson became a dealer at 29 when he and his cousin, Todd Williamson, bought the store five years ago.
He says being the store’s GM as well as the dealer lets him roll up his sleeves and work alongside his team to provide leadership.
Three Buckets of Online Buyers
He says online buyers fall into three buckets. The first is the “digital research buyer,” who gathers product information from the site. The rest of the transaction is done in person at the store.
What Williamson calls the “semi-digital buyer” falls into the second bucket. He says this buyer has more experience with online buying, so his trust level is higher. This buyer does most of their research online with very limited interaction with the showroom.
They send in very specific form submissions, asking, for example, whether a specific vehicle is still available. They will even identify it by stock number. They also submit detailed credit applications for approval.
“This buyer is doing 80 per cent of the digital buying, but still coming into the store for the test drive and completing the final stages,” he says.
The “digital buyer” falls into the third bucket.
“They use online purchasing in a number of areas of their lives and have complete confidence with an online purchase,” Williamson says.
This buyer takes full advantage of the digital dealing process: 98 per cent of the transaction is done online.
“A buyer in this bucket is able to take full advantage of our digital deal process which allows them to apply for credit online, leave a deposit on a specific vehicle, receive any payment info they request. The best part is we will deliver the vehicle to their doorstep within a few days,” Williamson says.
He says the number of customers in the third bucket is small and growing, albeit it, slowly. He reckons the slow growth is due to the fact that customers are buying a high-price item and want to test drive the car before buying.
The Digital Process Needs Attention
Williamson says his staff sees more customers from outside the Williamson Chrysler trading area. Out-of-towners also show up when staff reviews calls.
“We are able to connect a number of calls from outside our area to our digital marketing efforts.”
Even though the growth of digital transactions is slow, Williamson is a believer.
“Dealers need to embrace this and put some attention into how they can provide this experience. It’s not hard to do but the biggest thing to focus on would be the process and how it is handled at the store,” he says.
“As volume grows in this area, we are always reviewing how we deal with these leads/transactions and making sure it’s the most effective way of doing it.”