Several of the nation's public dealership groups say their investments in online retailing are picking up steam.
The five U.S. public retailers who reported third-quarter earnings last week all say they are bolstering their e-commerce efforts to better accommodate the growing number of vehicle buyers who want to shop online. The investments range from new mobile applications to more robust technology to provide a seamless buying experience regardless of how consumers are shopping.
A Group 1 Automotive Inc. executive provided a clue to why the public retailers are increasingly directing management attention and investment dollars to online initiatives.
"Closing rates are significantly higher when customers start their purchase process online," said Daryl Kenningham, Group 1's president of U.S. operations.
Group 1, Lithia Motors Inc. and Asbury Automotive Group Inc. all touted their commitments to so-called omnichannel initiatives to drive virtual and physical traffic to their stores, including the service department. Omnichannel typically describes a seamless buying experience whether consumers are shopping from their computer, mobile device or in the store.
Meanwhile, Penske Automotive Group Inc. and Sonic Automotive Inc. talked about their mobile efforts, with Penske stressing the importance of social media and digital integration, and Sonic preparing for new smartphone applications and website enhancements.
The industry's other public new-vehicle retailer, AutoNation Inc., reports its third-quarter results on Tuesday, Oct. 30.