Special Report

e-Dealer 100

The Internet is getting to be old news now. This is our 8th Ward's e-100 issue and frankly, not much has changed since the beginning.

Dealers still grapple with how to report or measure Internet sales. Responding to online leads quickly and effectively is an ongoing challenge — even for the dealerships on the Ward's ranking.

We say it every year — response time is critical. The dealers on the list understand that, and while not perfect, they have developed and demand processes that enable them to interact with their customers online.

There's no great insight in that — just a lot of hard work.

While not much has changed the last several years, as we look over the horizon, the way we market and sell cars may change at a speed that will leave us gasping.

The power of the Internet is going to allow us to do things we can't even imagine today. And for savvy dealers, the Web is a gift that will enable them to, not only survive, but become stronger and more powerful entities.

Already, the Web significantly has changed the used -vehicle business. You can read on page 42, how Brian Benstock, in just a couple of short years, took his dealership from being on one of the lowest rungs on Honda's certified pre-owned program, to the top spot last year, 40% better than the second place store.

While the industry still is trying to better handle online customers, dealers now are having to ask, what should I do with video? And, should I be paying attention to social media or dealer review sites?

Some of our answers, based on what many dealers on the Ward's e-100 ranking tell us, may surprise you. We've learned, the Ward's e-100 typically do not get caught up chasing the latest silver bullet or “wow” technology. Instead, they seem to focus on the basics — just as we write about year after year.

But having the basics down puts dealers in the position of being able to add new things and experiment with emerging technologies.

And that will be even more important in the next couple of years as television begins to merge with the Web; mobile device usage becomes prevalent and OEMs begin to shift the majority of their advertising budgets to Web channels. And the day quickly is coming when much of your store's transactions will happen online.

Now is the time dealers should focus on building an Internet culture in their stores. No longer can the Internet department remain a mere department. Dealerships are going to have to become Internet dealerships — if they want to survive the next 10 years.

Ward’s e-Dealer 100 is copyright Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the Ward's e-Dealer 100 are prohibited without prior permission of Ward’s Automotive Group.