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It's time to lay down some definitions

"Digital retail" and "online transaction" have become popular terms in recent years, but what do they really mean?

A lot of auto retail terms have multiple or unclear meanings. "Electronic contracting" is one example.

Many companies say they are trailblazers in digital retail and even claim to support a completely online transaction. But the ambiguity around "digital retail" and an "online transaction" leads to even more murkiness in charting the industry's progress toward the two. How can companies truly have an "end-to-end" online transaction when some regulatory forms still require a wet signature?

2018 will likely include more advances in digital retail and the online transaction, but until we really know what those two terms mean, it's difficult to know where the industry stands.

Careful phrasing and more detail upfront would likely help the industry move forward. Especially before so many companies likely reveal their digital solutions at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention this March, it's time for standardized definitions.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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