Covid, Socially Distancing, and the Pandemic have truly pushed us to look at process, tools, and the way we generally conduct business at the dealership. Who would have thought monogrammed masks and personalized hand sanitizers would be great marketing, but here we are.

We are learning to work within the restrictions we have, and in automotive, that means your online presence is more important than ever before. 

For years we have discussed your digital showroom, and Covid has truly made automotive evaluate what we were nostalgically holding onto, and what we need to do to meet the customer’s needs. 

As we have been studying the shopping and purchasing trends during this pandemic, there are 3 statistics that truly impacted the way we look at customer engagement and the new sales process. 

Online Car Purchasing

According to an article in Automotive News, 66% of customers are comfortable with completing the entire car buying process online. When I am in dealerships working with General Managers, many times they state that they cannot imagine customers wanting to complete everything digitally. And then there is the argument that State requirements would not allow for this, either. 

But there are some questions I need you to think about:

  • Why is Amazon now selling cars?
  • Why is Digital Retailing the most adopted solution of 2020?
  • Do you remember “way back when” the people who stated the internet and automotive shopping would never intersect?

You would be hard pressed to find a dealership who did not understand the importance of their website and inventory online. But there are more factors to consider, now, and with 66% of customers stating they are looking for an online path to purchase, someone is going to provide it to them.

I would definitely want to be the one who could offer that to them!

Digital Retailing

Automotive purchases have been on the rise since April, and between fear of public transit, lack of desire to rideshare, and vacations cancelled (money in pocket), people are buying new and preowned vehicles. With all that additional traffic to your website (Website traffic has continued to rise YoY, but foot traffic has decreased), you need to make sure you have the digital tools customers are looking for to research, begin, and sometimes almost fully complete the online purchase of their vehicle. 

Digital Retailing Tools are one of the more prominent discussions in regards to this. In a study of independent dealerships, 73% of customers who purchased a vehicle completed multiple steps of the process online if the dealership had a digital retailing tool. If the dealership did not have a digital retailing tool, that number dipped to 17%. With the ability to find a vehicle, plug in basic information such as down payment, estimated credit score, and your purchasing method, customers are spending more time on site making better informed decisions about the vehicle they can and want to purchase. 

Who are you reaching? The 73% or 17%?

Marketing your Remote Options

Seventy-five percent of consumers would prefer to handle their purchase, trade-in, financing and delivery remotely. Is your dealership providing remote choices for consumers who are still not comfortable going into the dealership for long periods of time? 

Some options you may want to consider:

  • Remote test drives
  • Home/Off-site delivery
  • Pickup and Delivery for Service
  • Virtual F&I Experiences

I am seeing these options consistently become new offerings for consumers, and they are received well and utilized frequently (depending on the area of the country you are from). Consider adding these if you do not already have them.

Customer Engagement

With a digital or online process in place, communicating with your customers is more important than ever. With lead volume and traffic on the rise, you need to evaluate your engagement process and make sure your BDC is trained to handle these leads differently. 

Do you have a BDC? And if so, have you listened to their calls with digital retail customers, and have you read their correspondence via email/text? It is imperative that the people who are the face and voice of your company know how to do the following things:

  • Engage with the customer
  • Listen to what they need
  • Create relationships 
  • Know the product

With the relational aspect of selling falling significantly on your BDC (at least to initially assist your customer), you need to make sure they are prepared and ready to go!

And if you do not have a BDC, or need help–we are here!

Let’s Talk About It

  • Do you have options for customers who would like to complete some of all of the process online or remotely?
  • How are you marketing those options? 
  • Is your BDC trained and ready to engage with your potential customers? 

Check out next week’s article for specific ways to market your online/at-home offerings to your customers.