Digital car-buying platforms are doing more than revamping how dealerships move metal.
They're altering the advertising strategies for stores that have adopted online purchase tools from startups such as Roadster and Drive Motors, which turn dealer websites into shopping hubs where consumers handle most or all of a vehicle purchase without setting foot in a store.
Dealerships at the forefront of the digital-sales transition say they must move past the old blueprint of always pushing low prices and must increasingly market the shopping experience itself.
The result is a mix of old and new. The options range from search campaigns on Google to mailers that break down the process step by step.
Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura in New York City have incorporated Roadster's Express Storefront platform into an online suite of services called "Paragon Direct." The trio of options takes vehicle purchases online along with service and test-drive scheduling.
Express Storefront, which is linked to dealership websites, enables consumers to choose a vehicle, get approved for credit, value trade-ins, settle on down payments and choose finance and insurance products. The vehicle is then delivered to the consumer.
"I think the more we talk about speed, convenience and value, the better the customer is going to react," Brian Benstock, general manager of both stores, told Automotive News. "We have to stop using the same metrics that we used before: drop the price, drop the price, drop the price. Let's talk about upping the service, upping the customer handling, improving the customer experience.
"Amazon doesn't guarantee you the best price in the marketplace," he added. "They're going to give you service that is second to none. I think we can do that, too."