Kelleher himself has been on a merry-go-round of digital retail platforms at his store, David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Glen Mills, Pa., so he understands the importance of not being tied down to one provider.
When the pandemic hit, Kelleher sampled several online shopping offerings. He started off on the system FCA was pushing, then known as the Online Retail Experience and being offered to dealers for free for several months, before dabbling in a few options from other providers.
He eventually made his way back to the Carzato tool that had been rebranded as E-Shop.
The pandemic forced the automaker to pull up the release date to the spring when millions of consumers suddenly became confined to their homes.
FCA began a pilot of the online buying system during the fourth quarter of 2019 through Alfa Romeo brand and dealer websites "to collect information and make changes to improve consumer engagement and understand what was needed to improve the lead-to-sales close rates."
E-Shop enables consumers to begin the trade-in process, apply for credit, receive price and payment estimates and review service protection plan options before having a vehicle delivered to them.
Other features now include online chats and the ability to make test drive appointments and reservations. The reservations option is integrated with PayPal, so users can put down refundable deposits on their desired vehicles.
Kelleher, even though he wasn't using E-Shop at the time, gave the development team tips as they built and refined the tool. After trying out other systems, he set up a demo last year to get a better view of E-Shop, which had been beefed up with more features since he last used it.
Kelleher said he understands that Stellantis wants to get more dealers onto E-Shop to create a more cohesive customer experience but that successful dealers should be able to differentiate themselves if they have a formula that works. There are some stores, Kelleher said, that could probably improve their sales by jumping onto E-Shop.
"The innovation part of dealer individuality is primary to driving sales," Kelleher said. "But that said, there's a large portion of our dealers who aren't as innovative and they did not have competitive tools. This is a great tool for them and Chrysler has been able to provide it."