“We are talking to a completely new customer,” Maric said.
The idea that dealership groups would want a single, core brand that they can use to differentiate themselves online from rivals makes sense, especially because consumers have realized that technology can speed up the car-buying process and gives them options beyond traditional dealerships, said Tim Copacia, executive vice president of strategic development at UnityWorks, J.D. Power’s video marketing division.
But Copacia said he cautions groups considering such an approach to think deeply about what branding requires.
“If you’re going to deliver it, you really have to fund it, invest in it and build the brand, and that does take time and money and consistency,” he said. “The experience that you promise must deliver, because if you set all that strategy up and the consumer doesn’t have a positive experience, all that vision and planning could go south.”
Paulo da Silva, Cox Automotive’s vice president of e-commerce, said about one-third of the 10 dealership groups actively using Cox’s Esntial Commerce technology are debuting standalone digital brands, while the rest are using their established group brands for the online tool.
Standalone brands can be a blank slate, da Silva said. Groups that leverage established brands may see an advantage to their existing assets, he added, similar to how brick-and-mortar retailers such as Target are using their physical stores to help them compete online against Amazon.
“Both strategies could work,” he said. “Honestly, to me it’s all about your commitment and your level of investment.”