FCA beefs up online retail platform 'E-Shop'
Used vehicles, online chats and test-drive appointments will soon be available on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's rebranded "E-Shop" online retail platform.
Dealers this spring were forced to pivot quickly to an online-only shopping and marketing experience as pandemic-induced shutdowns in many states were put into place. Now, automakers have found even after retailers reopened their doors that they can leverage their e-commerce platforms in support of sales as more people have transitioned to buying more online. About 45% of monthly sales at Fiat Chrysler now originate online compared to 25% last year, according to the company.
“Six months ago, we pulled forward the national launch of E-Shop to help our dealers who were attempting to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jeff Kommor, FCA's U.S. sales head, said in a statement. “Consumers say E-Shop gives them more transparency, while dealers say the entire process, including home delivery, allows them to create a strong bond with the shopper.”
It's a trend the traditional auto industry has resisted in favor of bringing buyers into dealer showrooms. Meanwhile, newcomers like electric-car maker Tesla Inc. and online used-car retailer Carvana Co. have embraced the e-commerce trend and with generous return policies have attempted to make buyers comfortable making their purchase sometimes before seeing it — though Tesla may be abandoning its seven-day return policy, according to reports.
E-Shop allows customers to complete the entire vehicle purchasing process online, including pricing information, obtaining a trade-in value of their current vehicle, identifying financial lending options, completing final paperwork and, in most cases, scheduling home delivery. Online shopping traffic across the dealer network has increased more than 65% since its launch.
Now, customers can get their questions answered in real-time using an online chat function. By next month, they will be able to put down a refundable reservation for a new vehicle using PayPal.
E-Shop also will provide dealers the ability to list their used vehicle inventories by December. Also by then, shoppers will be able to schedule an appointment to test drive a vehicle before entering a showroom.
Customers can access the E-Shop experience through the website for each of FCA's brands, participating dealer sites and through social media.