Car Dealers – Canaries in a Social Media Coal Mine

I know this maybe a bit of a stretched analogy, but I think local owners of car dealerships understand that their worlds have changed because of online competition. It also represents a classic struggle between the old and new economies of the twenty-first century. Customer loyalty and local dealerships’ connections to their “hometowns” were hallmarks of an implicit business relationship. This kind of arrangement has not disappeared completely, but technology has clearly changed the playing field accross the country, and the fate of these hometown ventures may be like those of the canaries in the coal mines who expire when exposed to poisonous fumes in the mine. A clear signal for the miners to leave.

In bringing the Internet and social media into these negotiations for the best car deal, I think we may also be losing something else in terms of what we learn about people and how we make decisions based on trusted advice from others. This is probably going to be seen as an old-fashioned notion and admittedly it is. Perhaps the unfettered messages from our social media world may be the most objective and unbiased advices we receive, but I am not sure we should trust it exclusively.

Going online is what most shoppers today will do in making their purchasing decisions. My biggest concern may be that we are gradually taking the person-to-person relationship out of the car shopping process. The fate of the struggling brick and mortar car dealerships may serve as the “canaries” of social media’s impact on their business model.

Ray Myers

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