Five Ways Distance Retailing Can Expand A Dealer’s Reach and Revenue 

Apr 11, 2024
The Autotrader Team

Whether you realize it or not, your car dealership is competing on the national level. Consumers are already buying, browsing, and researching online for their next… well everything. And while many dealers have shifted focus to distance retailing as an additional revenue stream both on the front-end and back-end for the opportunities it poses, many have not. 

Dealers who fail to open their sales territory are missing out on transaction-ready buyers. Gone are the days of only selling at your physical location. And here today are the opportunities to get in front of buyers who want the specific car you have outside of your usual 10 – 25 mile radius.  

In a recent episode of UnJaded for the Road Forward host Jade Terreberry, Senior Director of Strategic Planning at Cox Automotive took an unbiased and unjaded look at distance retailing with Chrisey O’Hara, Vice President of Dealer Sales at Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. Together they discussed the insights Autotrader collects with over 29 million unique visitors every month1 and unpackaged what they’re seeing when it comes to additional revenue possibilities, especially when it comes to distance retailing as a serious competitive advantage. 

It’s time for modern automotive dealers to expand their reach and get in front of buyers looking for the inventory you have. Here are the top five ways our experts recommend you use today’s distance retailing tools to uncover new revenue opportunities and compete at the national level. 

#1 Expand Your Sales Radius  

Selling beyond your market is an obvious win-win: consumers find the vehicle they want to buy, and you get to move inventory from your dealership. And, at its core, it’s about simplicity.  

Dealers only need to make it easy for consumers and offer the car, pricing, and experience they’re after. Today’s shoppers are willing to buy a car outside their market if you have what they want. This not only gives prospective buyers more options for finding their ideal vehicle, but it also gives dealers (like you!) more opportunities to close a deal and move inventory. 

Just how far are auto shoppers and purchasers willing to go? Current data shows the average distance online buyers were either willing to go to or take delivery from is 161 miles. That number not only has grown exponentially over the last 4 years, but only seems to be trending even further thanks to distance retailing capabilities as well as a shift in consumer behaviors. 

#2 Gain an Extra Edge with Strategic Technology 

Distance retailing without strategy probably won’t provide the return on investment you’re imagining. Instead, dealers who utilize technology to target consumers based on their search criteria and consumer demand, while identifying the most favorable markets, will gain a serious competitive edge.  

Innovative technology has been the game changer for dealers that want to either dip their toes or go full force into distance retailing. And the requests keep coming in for more, so much so that at NADA this past February, Autotrader debuted Market Extension Essential.  

At its core, it allows dealers to expand their sales radius and list their inventory in surrounding markets based on shoppers’ search criteria when there are limited results. The results were so successful that a new version, Market Extension, was launched shortly after. With features that allow dealers to list their inventory in DMAs of their choice to list amongst local listings that match a shopper’s search criteria, dealers are seeing an extra boost in both exposure and sales!    

#3 Capture Future Service and Fixed Operations Opportunities 

Most dealers with service centers know how to ensure and promote the advantages of getting their car serviced when they’ve personally sold. However, there’s currently a huge potential when it comes to capturing service and fixed ops business from consumers who have bought beyond their local market—and it’s right there for the taking.  

Roughly 3% of your service customers 

are actively shopping at all times.* 

Due to the inventory shortages consumers encountered in the last several years, odds are that many people in your market own a vehicle in your brand that didn’t buy directly from you. There are also opportunities to re-capture anyone who didn’t buy from you in the unfortunate instance that you didn’t have the car they were looking for during that time.  

Don’t miss the opportunity to get in front of that customer that purchased somewhere else – possibly across the state or country – that you now have the ability to capture their service needs. Remember no one that buys a car doesn’t need service. Distance retailing exists not only as a vehicle sales opportunity, but so many dealers are seeing success finding revenue opportunities in their service lane, and once a service customer the future revenue opportunity for their next sale. 

#4 Turn Low Search Results into High Sales Opportunities 

Serious shoppers, especially when open to purchasing outside their market, already want to buy your vehicles. They’re not a hard sell and likely are finding limited options in their local area, but they know what they want, they want what they want, and they are willing to either travel to pick it up or take delivery from you.  

Imagine getting the right offer to a consumer who is literally ready to sign a contract for the car on your lot, because they’ve just been waiting to see your vehicle, the one they’ve been searching for, appear in their results as available. With the average distance between online buyers being 161 miles, this not only gives prospective buyers more options for finding their ideal vehicle, but it also gives dealers more opportunities to close a deal and move inventory.  

“The e-commerce space has created a new normal 

for automotive retailers. And when you make it easy 

for today’s buyers to buy outside their usual market, 

they’re ready for, and open to it.” 

– Jade Terreberry, Senior Director of Strategic Planning 

#5 Build Confidence and Trust in the Delivery Process 

As online and hybrid shopping becomes the new normal for the automotive industry, dealers who leverage technology that makes the virtual experience a reality will have a leg up on the competition. Vehicle Delivery Pages (VDPs) that provide transparent steps outlining delivery process, shipping costs and purchase assurances help consumers feel more comfortable and confident.  

Autotrader Market Extension Essential boosts leads 

by 27% with a 30% increase in VDPs.*  

Educate them that there’s no difference whether they take delivery on-site or via shipping, if anything it’s an added convenience. 

For the Road Forward  

Distance retailing can make a real difference to both your bottom line now, and into the future when you follow the five strategies we’ve outlined above. By driving more vehicle sales by selling outside your local market, there are opportunities for dealers to build incremental revenue on the front-end and back-end. 

Although the automotive industry has been through a lot, automotive retailers are resilient! Continue that dedication to staying resilient and open to trying new things one step at a time.  

Already successfully implementing distance retailing? Great – increase your focus, expand your radius and capture service opportunities in your backyard with consumers that purchased outside market but need servicing in-market. New to selling outside your market with distance retailing? Take it one step at a time and test and measure. Try pushing out 3 models outside your usual market and secure one of your delivery people to deliver up to 100 miles for 90 days (about 3 months) and test it. We think you’ll find not only did it move inventory, but to a buyer who was highly motivated. 

Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, backed by the power of Cox Automotive, continue to be the connected partners you need in today’s times to power your business forward. Together, we provide the solutions and products car buyers demand, to help you get the results you need.   

Watch the latest episode of UnJaded for the Road Forward, where it takes a deeper diver into some of the new ways you can use distance retailing to uncover new revenue opportunities and compete beyond your sales lot.  


1 Source: Autotrader and Google Analytics January – August 2023   

2 Source: Voile current data 

3 Source: Snowflake data using Pixall, Jan. – Dec. 2023