The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) is keeping members abreast of possible changes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its online disclosures guidance that would affect advertising and selling products on the Internet.
On May 30, RVDA’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Brett Richardson attended an FTC full-day workshop in Washington, entitled “Advertising and Privacy Disclosures in the Digital World.” According to RVDA, the workshop was intended to provide guidance to the public concerning the FTC’s advertising requirements and to solicit input from the public for updates to the FTC’s existing online advertising guidelines, “Dot Com Disclosures” (DCD).
The original FTC guidelines were developed in 2000 as the Internet was just coming of age, and before the advent of social networking along with smart phones and their apps. “What a difference a decade makes. When Dot Com Disclosures was issued, who could have imagined the world we live in now?” said FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen.
The FTC is expected to formulate new guidelines and RVDA and its allies, including the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA), will actively work to make any new rules “as least onerous as possible” for motor vehicle dealers.
It appears the FTC will be addressing some new areas in its upcoming guidelines. Generally speaking, the FTC will likely address two broad categories impacted by new technology: (1) what is expressed and (2) what is collected. How do traditional “clear and conspicuous” standards play out on a small mobile device such as a smartphone? How can advertisers effectively disseminate disclosures on such devices?
A greater concern expressed by the FTC and consumer groups is the development of consumer online (and sometimes offline) behavior tracking. This permits advertisers to customize specific ads to targeted consumers, which might be very profitable for companies selling this data, but a consumer privacy nightmare. RVDA reported that there was talk about the FTC pushing industry to develop a framework for implementing do-not-track mechanisms that would allow Web users to opt out of behavioral targeting and other online data-collection across a broad network of advertising firms.
The FTC hosted several panels on various subjects related to online advertising. However, it seems that most panelists and the FTC itself would prefer to see that industry self-regulate itself by creating best practices for online disclosures.
Until General Motors and eBay announced they had joined forces to allow shoppers to “buy it now,” many of the automotive and RV dealers that Matt Christensen talked with believed that people wouldn’t buy big ticket merchandise, such as a car or RV, online without first touching and feeling it.
Christensen, partner and vice president of sales for Vision Selling Systems, sees mainstream auto and RV dealers beginning to understand that shoppers are approaching the buying process differently today than they did as recently as last year, and they’re beginning to follow in the footsteps of more savvy dealerships who have already turned their websites into lucrative profit centers that keep their sales centers ‘ka-chinging’ round the clock, according to a news release.
Vision Selling Systems and Vision software are products of Resurgence LLC, a privately held company with offices in San Diego and Fresno, Calif. The company specializes in Internet sales for automotive and RV dealers and manufacturers.
“Because buying just about anything on the Internet today is so easy, a shopper’s expectation for making an automotive purchase is usually much greater than what they find on most (automotive) websites,” according to Joyce Dillingham, Christensen’s partner and vice president of marketing for the company. “We designed Vision to give shoppers what they expect — the information that they want and the intelligent, interactive transactional tools that they need to essentially put a new vehicle in their shopping cart and check out.”
Christensen added, “Dealers who view their website as an extension of their sales force know that you can’t tell an internet shopper ‘A salesperson will call or email you.’ That message sends a buyer clicking off to another website without ever looking back. The Vision system invites shoppers to submit their offer to the dealer who can receive it, counter or accept the offer, and return it to the buyer on the same web page within minutes. It’s a real-time, interactive process that gives dealers an unprecedented advantage over their counterparts.”
Since the program was launched in late 2007, dealers have sold over 2,400 vehicles online using the Vision system.
The program will be exhibited at the upcoming Digital Dealers Show Nov. 1-3 in Nashville, Tenn.; the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Oct. 6-9 in Las Vegas; the California RV Show in Pomona, Oct. 16-25 in Pomona, Calif; and the National RV Trade Show, Dec. 1-3 in Louisville, Ky.