CHICAGO — Three months after launching, Group 1 Automotive's online car-buying platform is attracting shoppers to the brand's website — and its brick-and-mortar locations.
Digital retailing tool pulls in buyers
Though the majority of the deals working through the AcceleRide platform finish in-store, customers who begin the process online are nearly twice as likely to purchase a vehicle than those who come into the showroom off the street, according to Daryl Kenningham, president of Group 1's U.S. operations.
Since its June launch, nearly all of the group's 118 stores have deployed the tool.
"The traffic counts are very high. Once they start the process online, customers tend to buy a car at a much higher rate than people who come to us in another way, either through our websites or walking into our showroom," Kenningham said last month at the Automotive News Retail Forum: Chicago.
Still, the online transactions originated through AcceleRide account for less than 5 percent of the store's total sales. Even fewer sales are completed online as customers opt to finish the deal at a store.
Through AcceleRide, customers can browse Group 1's inventory of more than 38,000 new and used vehicles, customize features, select financing and payment terms and coordinate delivery to their home, office or local dealership.
The platform also integrates factory rebate and incentive offers and allows customers to fill in trade-in details. Customers can upload all required information without visiting a dealership.
A digital solution won't replace brick-and-mortar operations, Kenningham said. Rather, "It allows you to have more reach, and enables a customer transaction that maybe used to take place in a showroom."
However, most customers stop during the process and come into physical locations for assistance. Progress online is embedded into the leads gathered by Internet departments, Kenningham said, meaning Group 1 employees can pick up the transaction exactly where customers left off on AcceleRide.
Extending Group 1's digital reach will augment in-store operations, which Kenningham believes is more beneficial to the dealership group than expanding its physical footprint.
Onstage during the forum, Kenningham said digital tools were part of the reason Group 1 would not follow its fellow public retailers in pursuing standalone used-vehicle locations.
"We think there's a ton of opportunity inside of our own footprint," he said. "I don't fault great companies like Penske and Sonic that have gotten in that business and been successful with it. But today, we don't see that as an avenue for us. Especially as used-vehicle sales become more and more digital."
AcceleRide is powered by two digital retail vendors that Kenningham declined to name.
Headquartered in Houston, Group 1 ranks No. 4 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups, with retail sales of 170,517 new vehicles last year.
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