For automakers, digital retailing is now seen as essential as other tools at franchised dealer, vendors say.

Automotive News reported that automakers have begun to view online retailing as an important tool that dealers should be using alongside dealership management systems and customer relationship management software.

Digital vendors say automakers’ interest is growing as everything from books to shoes and, increasingly, cars and trucks are being bought online. Some dealers have pushed for automakers to get more involved as consumers increasingly seek a seamless online shopping experience.

A program Toyota plans to launch this summer indicates that some are listening. Dealership enrollment for the initiative, called the Toyota Dealer Digital Solutions Certified Website Program, began in March, Josh Hoffmann, senior manager of dealer digital marketing at Toyota Motor North America, wrote in an email.

“The program is designed to better meet dealer needs while simultaneously focusing on evolving consumer behaviors and expectations,” Hoffmann said. Certified categories will include chat and text, trade-in evaluation, service appointment schedulers, video creation providers and digital retailing platforms. Dealerships will have eight certified website providers and dozens of certified third-party tool providers to select from, Hoffmann said.

Roadster is among the digital retailing vendors Toyota certified for the program. Roadster officials said the company also is now an approved Mercedes-Benz digital retailing vendor, as it is for Audi, Hyundai and Lexus. A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz did not respond to requests for comment.

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