Inventory shortages make digital retailing more important than ever

A salesperson hands a car buyer her keys

Digital retail can be your dealership’s saving grace during this inventory shortage

In an interview with Automotive News, Toyota Motor North America’s Head of Sales Jack Hollis expects another year of inventory shortages. But he points to digital retail for keeping sales flowing as customers become more comfortable ordering in-transit or pre-production vehicles. 

Hollis also highlights the online car-buying experience as something customers want and need. Even with record-setting prices, customer satisfaction soars thanks to simplified digital retail processes.

When inventory is tight, using a digital retail tool to capture the highest intent leads out there—customers already pre-approved and ready to buy as soon as the vehicle hits the lot—is only the beginning. Embracing automotive ecommerce technology overcomes short-inventory challenges by expanding your geo, better capturing trades, and making salespeople specialists for every product—new and used, no matter the OEM.

If you think you don’t need digital retail because inventory’s so sparse, think again. Here’s why digital retail is crucial to thriving when stock is scarce. 

Queue up deals for in-transit, on-order, and upcoming inventory

Tools that bring automotive ecommerce to life for your dealership can handle manually configured VIN-less listings. That means you can configure a new vehicle make, model, trim, and options to customer’s specifications and pencil out the deal right in the app. 

You can even get them pre-approved for financing, add back-end products and accessories, and provide peace of mind around their price and payments. If there’s a waiting list for vehicles, you can also accept a deposit to secure their place. 

If the vehicle’s already built and in transit, just not yet on the lot, the process is even easier—just input the VIN. 

fight shortages by selling in-transit vehicles

Think of this as capturing the highest-intent lead imaginable. As soon as the tires hit the ground at your dealership, the customer’s ready to finalize the deal and drive away. You can even run the deal entirely online and coordinate remote delivery. Then all the customer needs to do is spec, wait, and drive. 

As long as they’re willing to wait for the vehicle to be built and/or arrive, they can take the left lane and pass right by the woes of shopping during the inventory shortage.

Better yet, these customers don’t even have to be within your primary market area—you can reach new customers from far away.

Embrace buyers from far and wide

That online deal and remote delivery scenario that can make VIN-less and in-transit deals go more smoothly also opens the door of your showroom to a much larger customer base. The digital retail platform brings the entire car-buying experience online, so buyers hundreds or thousands of miles away don’t have to worry about visiting the showroom to get the car they want. 

Today’s customers are willing to look across the country to get the best deal, and inventory shortages have led to even greater distances. And while plenty of people are willing to actually travel to see and buy their car, many just do it all online and coordinate shipping—one dealer even thinks, “those days of looking for a used car in person are kind of over”.

By handling the deal online, with sales teams available for live chat and video tours, online car-buying tools like Upstart Auto Retail make remote deals a breeze.  

Any employee can kickoff a trade-in

Your website, front desk, service bay, and everywhere in between can be a valuable source of used inventory simply by equipping them with your digital retail platform

Trade-in tools integrated with digital retail workflows

Computer chips being in short supply means new car production is slow and new inventory hard to come by. But the same forces don’t affect used cars, since they’re already built. So how can you get more used cars on your lot? By providing instant trade-in appraisals online and in-store, directly to customers or through any customer-facing employee. 

That means you can run more effective “we’ll buy your car” ads with the hook of instant valuation. It also means you can equip anyone from receptionists to service staff to entice customers into selling you their car. By simply entering the vehicle’s VIN and condition into Upstart Auto Retail’s trade-in evaluator, anyone can get an accurate offer on the spot.

Of course, you’ll caveat offers on inspection and adjust based on the vehicle’s true condition. But there’s plenty of confidence behind the process, since Upstart Auto Retail’s integrations with FirstLook, VAuto, Kelley Blue Book/KBB ICO, and Accutrade provide up-to-date market values for any make and model. 

Don’t wait for a buyer to walk in the showroom and offer up their trade—proactively open new doors to sourcing used inventory with digital retail’s smooth and easy online appraisals. 

Be a product specialist on any car, new or used

Your sales teams go through intense training to make sure they can understand and explain all the distinct features and values of your rooftop’s OEMs. But with inventory shortages, they’re probably dealing a lot more in used cars of model years prior to their product training or from different OEMs entirely. When it comes to selling those models, how can they possibly act as a product specialist on every distinct make, model, year, and trim?

With every vehicle in your inventory added to your digital retail tool by VIN, you’ll pull in all the details to speak knowledgeably and accurately about them to any customer. Simply upload photos and videos to show off condition and manually enter any aftermarket upgrades, and you’re good to go. 

These easily accessible details give the salesperson the right information to craft their conversation to the specific customer while touting specific features. And it can help avoid any miscommunications around features a car does or doesn’t have, so there’s no surprises. 

All of the vehicle information is also available directly to customers online, saving you time in writing up unique and specific descriptions for every vehicle. By building in the details that inform a product specialist, digital retail helps your teams confidently sell any and every car that comes across the lot.

The advantages of digital automotive retail become crucial business strategies when inventory is so tight across the industry. 


Download the inventory shortage playbook for dealers

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