E-Commerce Times Talkback
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The prospect of buying a car online always seemed like a long shot. Now,
little-by-little, the Big Three American automakers appear to be backing away from
the "buy your new car online" business model. It makes more sense for auto
manufacturers to use the Internet to steer consumers to brick-and-mortar dealerships.
Yes, I did go to the dealer to test-drive the car and close the deal. But, I was glad about the price commitment made online before visiting the dealer, and the "haggle free" experience it promised at the dealer location. Maybe there are a few more people out there who would like to keep haggling out of the car buying experience.
I couldn't agree with you more. Dealerships are virtually the only way to purchase a vehicle for a good reason...they work. Customers need to see, touch and drive before they purchase because of the significant financial and emotional ramifications of their decision. There is no way to duplicate that experience in a pure Internet transaction.
All the naysayers, who rant about dealers standing in the way of progress, never realize the value-added dealerships bring to the car buying experience. Fortunately, the internet-using, car-buying public does perceive the dealers' value.
Having worked for a Ford dealership for a time and completed my master's thesis/professional project on managing customer relationships during the Ford / Firestone tire recall, I agree with Mr. Greenberg. Most people will not buy a car without the test drive and ‘kick the tires’ experience. Automakers need to drive business to the dealerships by setting up useful Web sites that ‘inform’ and ‘motivate’ potential buyers. CRM technology and strategies need to be used to manage customer relationships. By doing this, dealerships and automakers will maximize their partnerships and both profit from this.
It sure does look like the Big Three are finally looking at the Internet as the place where they get the consumer to their dealers. The purchase of a large item product will not be easy for the consumer to make. However, when it comes to doing the research the consumer will make their choice, then they will head to their "local" dealer to purchase the vehicle.
That is the Internet. It is an information source for the local large item purchase. These auto sites should be steering the consumer to their local dealerships and work with the dealership to make the consumer happy about the choice they have made. Why spend $50 million when the local dealership is where the consumer wants to be.