If I Had a Car Dealership…

If I Had a Car Dealership…

Written By AE Staff

a guest blog by Wes McClelland, Sales Director at ActivEngage

I’ve never been a quitter; it’s not something I do, nor is it in my DNA. 

In February of 1996, I was newly married and looking for a job. I was fresh out of college, where I majored in Criminal Justice. I wanted to become a peace officer in the state of Texas, specifically a State Trooper. I needed temporary employment while waiting to enter the academy in just 9 months. 

A friend of mine from college mentioned that a brand new car dealership had opened in Stafford, Texas and that I should apply to sell cars until the academy called for me to pursue my passion of becoming a trooper. 

So I did just that!

An Automotive Career Begins

A Pontiac GMC dealership was my very first gig in the car business (this alone will tell you how long ago this was!), and in my seven years working there, I got bit by the proverbial “Car Bug.”

By 1999 I moved into the role of e-commerce director. Who would ever have thought back then you could sell cars to folks online? I still remember receiving customer leads from the fax machine! But the reality is: that the internet came, saw, and conquered. It’s here, and it’s not going anywhere. 

Customers, and their expectations, have evolved alongside the development of the internet as a selling tool. While most consumers still don’t want to purchase a vehicle fully online, they do want to accomplish a good deal of the legwork digitally. 

WWWD (What Would Wes Do?)

Prospective dealer partners always ask me “Wes, what would you do? If you had a dealership, what would be your must-have solutions?” Because of my dealership background, especially in e-commerce and business development, I know what engages a digital customer base well.

And in my position now as someone who helps dealers realize what solutions they might be missing, or maybe a great addition to their customer experience toolkit, I’ve narrowed down what I believe are absolutely essential for any modern dealership in this era of digital retailing.

3 Essential Digital Solutions for Wes’ Dealership

  • Messaging

As a consumer myself: I just want to talk to someone. Your dealership customers do, too! They are about to make an expensive, emotional purchase. A simple lifeline to a real human being goes a long way in comforting a car shopping customer. In what can be, historically, a complicated and stressful process: a lot of customers just want to be reassured and have some guidance.

Tell me what you can do. Tell me what you can't. Just talk to me! 

Human guidance, in this process, can build trust and encourage action. How much better of an outcome can you expect if that isn't how the experience begins at your dealership?

  • The Right Offers at the Right Time.

At times, customers need to see the right message to give them that little push through the sales funnel! Car shoppers are all combing different websites, seeking their perfect car (and hopefully a great deal along with it). 

In the current climate, the right car might be hard to come by. Our creativity as business people has to kick in to ensure we are using every tool we can to capture quality opportunities. What gesture can position you in their minds as a business that goes above and beyond to see what can be done? 

With digital engagement and behavioral offers, you can throw that lifesaver out to customers on your website, seeking their potentially elusive perfect vehicle.  Letting them know that even in today's climate you can help!

This might be last on my list, but it’s certainly not the least important. The internet has afforded every consumer a louder, more accessible voice in the realm of commerce. There are more eyes on your business than ever. Look, I know !@#$ happens in the showroom and I know not every sales interaction is 100% peachy. But all it takes is one of those times, and one of those interactions, and that customer will take to the wind to warn others. According to ReputationX, “People trust a business more after reading positive online reviews. In fact, positive reviews make 74% of consumers trust a local business more.” (Source)

Not only that, but increased reviews and responses to reviews can actually help your SEO ranking — big time! Online reviews are critical to your SEO strategy since Google uses them among the criteria to rank search results. Social media sharing can boost your SEO ranking too. Your task is to persuade satisfied customers to share their positive feedback on social media. The more social shares you get, the higher your dealership will rank, and the more customers you can get!

Your dealership greatly benefits from attentive reputation management! Being willing to address concerns not only can repair the relationship with that specific customer, but the optics of addressing it can show other customers your strong customer experience ethic as well. I’d say it’s absolutely essential for any dealership; it would be non-negotiable at mine, that’s for sure! 

Modern Dealerships Need Modern Solutions

So, there you have it! Those are my must-have digital tools for the modern dealership. All of these were carefully selected with the modern consumer in mind. The customer is always right! 

What that means to me:

The customer’s methods of engaging you, and their perception of you, is their truth. Your customer experience is only as seamless and welcoming as you make it, and delivering this modern customer experience requires meeting your shoppers where they are; at any stage of their purchase journey! 

My “Dealership” Uses ActivEngage. No Questions Asked! 

Just my two cents, of course! This is my humble opinion as someone who was in the dealership world for over two decades. And now, I’m in a unique position across the aisle as a vendor (although, I prefer to call it a partner; a business relationship is a partnership!) who helps offer modernized solutions. 

So, boost up your own dealership with ActivEngage! In addition to the deepest integrations with various automotive digital retailing tools, my solutions above correspond with the follow ActivEngage offerings:  

  • Managed Messaging, omnichannel managed or co-managed chat & text.
  • ActivTarget, behavioral offers tailored to you and your customer's needs.
  • AcceleRater, to manage your company’s reputation (or we can do it for you!).


Ready to discover how ActivEngage helps your dealership succeed?