Your Business is Not Gone – It’s just Different Now

Why it is vital for dealerships to shift their energy toward virtual storefronts and showcase their services across digital channels beyond COVID-19

As dealerships are gearing up and acclimating to the new consumer environment of quarantine, social distancing, and economic uncertainty, it is vital to provide creative avenues for customers and prospects to shop and purchase from the comfort of their own homes.  

It is just as vital to ensure consumers know about your offerings during this shift toward virtual retailing.

Dealerships’ roots are in the relationships they create at their stores, with prospects on the showroom floor, and with customers in their service bays. So, with the outbreak of COVID-19, dealers must reframe their thinking if they want to retain existing customers and conquest new ones – now and in the future.

If you haven’t already, consider implementing immediately:

  • Virtual showrooms

This is becoming more common and available for consumers, and rightly so, giving shoppers an opportunity to better view vehicles online and even make online purchases. It also keeps your dealership accessible to customers when most services and venues are not.

Luther Automotive Group is a great example of this, as they are offering No-Contact Sales and Service, all the way from searching online to delivery.

  • At-Home services

This trend is rapidly gaining traction across the country. Acton Toyota in Massachusetts has service (pick-up AND delivery), 100% online purchases (with delivery), and even 24-hour online service scheduling.

Similarly, Young Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC out of Owosso, Michigan, is offering at-home pickups and delivery services, understanding that consumers are not able to venture out to their stores with present CDC and government regulations.

  • Marketing automation

Now more than ever, building a dialog based on consumers’ intrinsic needs and interests is what can set a dealership apart. With the continued rise of hyper-personalization in every facet of our lives, the mission of successful retailers is to engage customers on a 1:1 basis – whether through email, social, or other channels.

Bruce Titus Automotive Group details how they use AI-driven marketing automation to increase sales and ROs.

A successful marketing automation platform tracks consumer behavior, connects to a variety of data sources like your CRM and DMS, leverages that data to drive insights, and engages consumers wherever they are in their lifecycle. If ever there was a time to automate communications and be alerted when a consumer might be in-market for purchase or service, now is that time.

  • Proactive digital engagement

There are many more ways to stay ahead of the current landscape. One element that dealers adding new and innovative services have been missing isn’t the proactive or digital part – it’s the engagement. A shopper shouldn’t have to Google your dealership’s name and ‘COVID-19’ to learn your response to the current crisis.

Some examples for how and where to let consumers know what you are offering are:

  • Website banner – whether as a popup, part of your top image carousel, or in your navigation, make it clear on your homepage what you are offering amidst COVID-19,
  • Social posting – that means on Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn, and through video where possible, so you are visible where your customers are,
  • Digital advertising – you may be cutting back on TV and radio spend, but don’t cut digital; stay top of mind while consumers are surfing online.

A great example can be seen on the homepage for Toyota of Irving, where they include information in their image carousel along with an additional popup to make their offerings clear.

Today’s consumer landscape is certainly different and may be forever altered, but consumers still need vehicles and servicing on the vehicles they own. Take advantage of the recommendations above to ensure your consumers are consistently engaged and to gently remind them that you are available to help – even if they can’t come to your dealership in person.

Of the four items we recommend, say you’re doing them all – are you going to keep up with it once we return to a “new normal,” evolving beyond this initial phase of crisis? You should, because virtual storefronts and digital retailing isn’t just “for now”, it is the future and imperative to surviving beyond today.