Few areas of commerce are as prone to fads as sales. Perhaps because selling can feel like such an elusive business (why did this approach work today but not yesterday? Will it work tomorrow?), advice on becoming a successful salesperson is an industry unto itself. For this reason, industry veterans are often sceptical about new tools that promise to deliver big when it comes to sales. No matter how you spin it, sales will always come back to doing a few things well: generating leads, cultivating them, building trust, making a strong pitch, and closing the sale.

But the latest trend in automotive sales — dealership chat — is different from previous fads. The reason it is so popular and effective is not that it is adding something new to the sales process, but because it provides new, more effective ways for car sales teams to adapt the sales techniques they have built their careers on for the Internet age.

Unlike industries that have been more directly impacted by the rise of online retail, car dealerships have remained relatively stable even as other brick-and-mortar retail outlets have been forced to close outlets and downsize staff. Even in 2018, most shoppers still want to buy a car in person, from a sales representative they can see and interact with. Where the Internet has had a major impact on auto sales has to do with the steps shoppers take before making their purchase.

Almost 90% of North Americans use the Internet to gather information when car shopping, and for many shoppers on the market for a new vehicle, the dealership is now the last stop before making a purchase. By the time a potential customer walks in the showroom door, they are likely to be close to making up their mind already, which makes it harder to cultivate strong leads with shoppers who are still receptive to your messaging and sales team.

For dealerships that want to take the initiative in reaching out to new customers, dealership chat services like Gubagoo provide ways to leverage a dealership’s web presence to generate solid leads that translate into increased sales. Live chat providers engage with visitors to a dealership’s website and field questions about inventory, deals, and financing options. If a customer starts showing serious interest, the live chat provider can pass them over to a dealership staff member, who can then close the sale.

As a recent case study conducted in Mississauga, Ontario, shows, this can be an extremely effective tool for increasing sales. In 2015,Mississauga Toyota, a family owned and operated dealership in the Greater Toronto Area, decided to move to 100% digital marketing and started using Gubagoo’s chat software to help cultivate new leads. By 2017, 23% of the leads generated through live chat were converting into sales, representing revenue of $223,555 and a return on investment of 2,570%.

This evidence shows that while the Internet may have irrevocably altered the retail landscape in North America, it also represents a huge opportunity for businesses that are able to leverage the best online tools to grow their brand, attract new customers, and drive sales. Given the power of tools like dealership chat, it is only a matter of time before they become standard across the industry.