Retail Front

The Upcoming Digital Dealership


What occurs during the car dealership buying process will soon happen virtually the same online, says Kevin Henahan, senior vice president-marketing for information-technology provider ADP.

“What happens at the dealership needs to be the same on the web,” he says.

Car shoppers currently can do many things online. But Henahan describes an impending fully integrated system that lets them do much more in a seamless way.

That includes going to a dealership website to learn about specials, select a vehicle from listed inventory, receive a quote, get a trade-in offer (even though the dealership has not seen the car in question), establish credit, examine financing options and view finance and insurance products.

The system will remember what online shoppers have done “so they don’t have to start over” if they leave and later revisit the website, Henahan says.

Auto retailing is getting closer to a digital replication of dealership doings, he says. “The workflow is in play, but it is not yet integrated into a seamless experience.”

It soon will be.

“Much of this is in place,” says John Holt, senior vice president of ADP’s Digital Marketing Group. “We’re trying to bring it closer together. We want the online customer to do any part of the transaction they choose to do.”

All this “will transform the way cars are marketed and sold in the digital age,” Henahan says, estimating it will cut the buying time in half.

Advancements are changing dealership service-department operations, too.

Customers not only can go online to schedule repair and maintenance appointments but will also receive notifications on their mobile devices that their vehicles are ready.

“They can then click a button to pay online,” Henahan says. “That’s coming next year.”

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What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.


Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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