How Virtual Inventories can provide a real Advantage

By Peter Plazza

“You can’t take a salesperson from the front of the house and tell them they’re going to now sell cars online,” because the dynamics are so different. – John Foley, President, izmomedia

Dealers know that most customers research their car purchases online before buying. To some that may seem a risk since it adds more competition to the mix. But many dealers use the Web to lure and capture buyers by using virtual inventories.

John Kimel, who heads the Internet sales department at Lewis Motors in South Burlington, Vt., says he’s heard that as many as 95 percent of car buyers check online before they buy a car. Lewis Motors put a virtual inventory on its Web site five years ago, and kimel says it’s been a boon for business. “If you don’t have a good Web site and you’re not showing everything you need to be showing, such as inventory, specials, and your finance rates, you’re just telling people ‘Don’t bother shopping here,’” Kimel says.

Helping Small Dealerships Look Big

At the most basic level, virtual inventories simply show every car that’s available on a dealer’s lot, with automatic nightly updates from the Dealership Management System (DMS) as cars come in or are sold.

But virtual inventories can go further and show all makes and models that are available, with data updated directly from car manufacturers. These expanded inventories create an opportunity for small dealerships to gain customers, says Andy Flint, national sales executive with Tk Carsites, which creates Web sites with virtual inventories for dealerships.

“If somebody is on the Web site looking for a specific vehicle, if you don’t have it, they’re simply going to move on to the next Web site, so you’ve lost a potential client,” he says. By displaying all makes and models, many of which can be ordered, dealerships are not limited to selling whatever is currently on hand.

Virtual inventories help small dealerships compete with large dealerships without having to spend enormous amounts of money, says John Foley, publisher of izmomedia, which also builds virtual inventories and dealer Web sites.

“The first thing you have to do is get the dealer to realize that by creating an online store, he is actually opening up a new dealership. The difference is he doesn’t need land.”

“Hi, I’m Your Web Salesperson”

Foley explains that dealerships need to understand the difference between selling a car online and selling one in a showroom. “You can’t take a salesperson from the front of the house and tell them they’re going to now sell cars online,” because the dynamics are so different, he says. Izmo also offers sales training to help dealerships take advantage of Web-based opportunities.

Mark Heer, general sales manager at Sonnen Porsche in Mill Valley, Calif., says that having a virtual inventory helps sales. Sonnen’s virtual inventory has been active since the dealership opened in 2002.

Virtual inventories are also lead-generation tools. Flint says that individual Web products start at approximately $100 per month, with full packages ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars monthly, depending on variables such as the number of brands being sold. Getting sites up and running does not require extensive technical know-how; ‘off the shelf’ software can be plugged into the DMS and running in three business days.

Online inventories help dealers generate leads and compete for customers who are researching their purchases online before they buy. “People’s buying habits have changed, and that means our selling habits have to change,” kimel says. Putting a virtual inventory in place can help dealerships make that transition.

Posted in TechnoBahn

Written by

Enjoy this Post?

Remember to subscribe to our RSS Feed and if you would like, please share this post.

Leave a Reply