Brick and mortar meets click and order

Take advantage of e-commerce to complement in-store sales

By Colleen Malloy

I’ve hit you over the head with this fact time and time again, but I’ll say it again (and will likely remind you again in the future for good measure): The vast majority of people start the shopping process online, and that initial search, in more cases than not, is for a product or a service rather than for the name of a local retailer.

Think about how your dealership’s current online presence fits into the following three shopping scenarios.

* Scenario #1: I’m mowing my lawn on Wednesday evening, and I hit a big rock and ruin my blade. I perhaps say a few things not fit for the fine pages of OPE magazine. Then, I pull out my iPhone and search for that very specific replacement part. I want this problem solved pronto, and I don’t want to have to drive all around town to deal with it. I compare prices across a few different retailers and select the online retailer that makes it easy for me to find the exact part I need with an illustrated parts diagram. I add it to my online shopping cart, and, thanks to the men in brown, it arrives on my doorstep three days later.

* Scenario #2: So it turns out, I’m not as handy as I thought as was. It’s Sunday morning, and I haven’t gotten the new blade on my deck and half of my lawn is covered in dandelions. I need help! I sit down for a cup of coffee and search for mower service in my area on my tablet. I find a dealer that makes it easy for me to request a service appointment online — even while they’re closed — and I get an email back Monday morning confirming my appointment and add the service appointment to my iPhone’s calendar.

* Scenario #3: While I’m in-store to drop off my old rider for service, I spend a little time browsing the zero turns. It seems there’s been a lot of innovation in the market since I invested in my rider 10 years ago. I leave the dealership and spend a little time over my lunch break browsing online review sites and watching YouTube videos, which promote the models that caught my eye at the dealership. I narrow my selections down based on those reviews and product walk-through videos, and I start to explore pricing, financing options and manufacturer promotions on the websites of three different local dealers. It looks like the dealer that’s servicing my mower is price-competitive, so I’m considering giving them the business. I go back to the dealership to pick up my old rider and talk through the features and benefits with the sales guy, but I’ve come alone and need to have a discussion about the monthly payments at home. I sell the idea to my wife over dinner, but we decide to put the purchase on our AmEx, so we can get the reward points. There was only one of the shiny new zero turns I’m interested in in-stock, and I don’t want miss it, so I hop on my laptop, put the mower in my cart, enter my payment details, and get an email back from the dealer the following morning to arrange delivery.

My digital journey is similar to that of many busy shoppers today who want to seamlessly interact with your dealership across the digital realm and in real life at your dealership. If your online presence isn’t designed to handle the aforementioned scenarios, you will lose the business of busy people like me who do a lot of their product research online, outside regular business hours.

Take a quick walk through ARI’s Digital Path to Purchase graphic (see above). While it is true that 80 percent of people are still going to buy from you in-store, I’d be hard pressed to find a business owner who wants to close the door to that other 20 percent — a number we’re sure to see grow over the years to come.

So, what do you need to do? With so much of today’s sales process taking place online, it’s key to ensure that your online presence and in-store experience are working together to encourage shoppers to make a purchase with you. By making your online presence a resource for shoppers, having an e-commerce-friendly website, and using in-store tech to bridge the gap between your website and store, you can harness the purchasing power of online shoppers and boost your bottom line.

Make the most of your website

Think of your website as another location for your dealership. You wouldn’t build a new store and display all of your inventory but not let customers make purchases there, would you? With the prevalence of online shopping, your website can help you generate even more revenue if you take advantage of it!

Today’s busy shoppers enjoy the convenience of online ordering, so a shopping cart feature on your website is a must-have. The ability to purchase parts on your website, schedule service, or order larger units for in-store pickup saves time for your customers and helps you tap into that 20 percent that prefers to complete their purchase online.

Adding this functionality can get a little complex. If you’re considering e-commerce, I’d absolutely recommend working with a reputable third-party website vendor with experience setting up cart functionality to help you navigate the pitfalls of opening up an online profit center.

In-store experience

You can also use in-store technology to bridge the gap between your website and your store. Many of your customers might be webroomers — people who research a product using the Internet while browsing in-store. These shoppers often end up making an in-store purchase, and you can help them by providing free Wi-Fi to make their online research easier and by being sure to approach them to see if you can answer any questions they may have.

If a part you carry is currently out of stock, you can still capture the sale! You can use tablets or in-store kiosk screens to show customers the product details and help them order a product to be delivered to their home or to be ready for in-store pickup in just a few days time.

Digital marketing bridges the online/in-store gap

Having a customized contact strategy to keep customers engaged after they make a purchase can help you get them back in your store to buy again. Include them in email or text message campaigns related to their purchase — maybe you’re having a sale on parts or the latest and greatest zero turn is now available. You can also use these methods to send returning customers personalized coupons toward their next purchase.

If you have an app for your dealership, be sure to send push notifications to your app users when you’re having sales or any exciting in-store events.

Reaching out to your customers in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive will help keep your dealership top-of-mind when they’re ready to make their next purchase or when they need service.

Bottom line: By creating an omni-channel shopping experience, you’ll be able to connect with your current customers and new prospects wherever and however they prefer to shop.

1504_OPE_FS_Social Strategy2_author-Colleen Malloy-webColleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website ( and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”