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Move your showroom online

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Where do you think customers get their first impression of your dealership?

If it's by visiting your store in person, more than likely you are wrong. That was in the good-ol' pre-Internet days when potential customers wore out shoe leather or gave their digits a workout dialing your number to ask about what tires and services you offer.

It's a growing trend nowadays that more consumers will have their first contact with a service outlet online before stepping into that store, assuming they ever do.

Before online shopping became vogue, consumers would get their first impressions of an operation most often by driving by the location or bringing in their vehicle for service.

In doing so, they could quickly assess the dealership's cleanliness and whether the staff was responsive, friendly and knowledgeable.

Once in the showroom, they could see product offerings on display and view brochures and posters providing product details and warranty information.

Now, with everyone pressed for time, this process of information gathering more often than not is taking place through a visit to a dealership's website.

How this information is portrayed and whether it resonates with customers goes a long way toward establishing whether someone physically visits a dealership or decides to go elsewhere.

It is estimated that more than 70 percent of consumers shopping today for automotive-related services and products first do their research online, then buy offline.

And gone, too, are the days when a print ad—or website—can simply list a dealership's name, location and brands. In order to do comparison shopping, consumers want data, fitment selection, customer reviews, prices—and may even want to make an appointment online.

Chances are when consumers walk into a dealership, they already know what tire they want or what service they need based on their Internet research. If a consumer walks into your dealership armed with this information, he or she most likely got it off your website or somewhere on the Web.

Like it or not, your website, and all your other social media pages, are your store's showroom and virtual sales staff. Everything you'd discuss with and display for consumers visiting your store should also be available on your website.

Patrick Sandone of Net Driven says it well: “If your customers want to get educated online, move your showroom online.”

That's a great way to look at it, and solid advice for tire dealers looking to stay competitive in the Internet age.
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