By Katie Wilkins – Sr. Director, Product Management
The Digital Storefront is, now more than ever, essential to the survival of the modern automotive dealership. Digital behaviors deemed essential to operation during social distancing are expected to continue after this period has passed. You offered your customers new tools or reminded them they could shift their shopping activity online, and many responded by adapting to this process. With experience, customers are finding they prefer to carry out the purchase process from the comfort of home. So, are social distancing mandates shining a spotlight on convenience as a valuable currency?
From digital retailing on dealer websites, to sales conversations via Skype and Facetime, will digital conveniences spotlighted by current events permanently change the shopper journey? We will examine the lasting impact that remote shopping behaviors might have on your digital strategy, and how to position yourself for the future.
Let’s start by recognizing that consumers who cannot come to the physical dealership are still shopping. In fact, the April 4th Cox Automotive COVID-19 Impact Study shows that 66% of shoppers are not delaying a vehicle purchase, and 22 of the continental states actually saw a year over year increase in website visits in March mainly driven by new car incentives. However, 61% stated they were much less likely or somewhat less likely to visit a dealership. You may ask how these numbers work, and the answer lies in digital storefronts. Dealers who have been slow to adopt and adapt found themselves at a disadvantage, but there are steps they can take to arm themselves for a more digital, more flexible, more consumer first sales future.
First, communication tools are critical, including chat, video chat, virtual walkarounds, skype, facetime. These are modern conveniences that are helping dealers through this challenging time. And many consumers are already familiar with them, so there is little to no work in educating them. There are countless situations where traditional communication options, such as calling on the phone or speaking in person at the dealership, aren’t ideal. By assisting shoppers in the moment and in the way they want to engage, you are moving the research phase of their journey forward and optimizing the experience.
Next, online deal-making and digital retailing tools help remote consumers move their purchase forward online. Digital Retail engagement rates grew by 25% since the beginning of March and, despite a general decline in overall website leads, we were seeing Digital Retailing Deal and Credit Applications up 13% compared to the end of February. It’s important to recognize there isn’t a cookie-cutter sales process; some shoppers like to engage face to face and test drive multiple vehicles, while others prefer to complete the purchase online and have the vehicle delivered to their home to test drive. Dealerships that facilitate shopping in any way the customer chooses are the ones that will win in the new age of automotive shopping.
Finally, personalization allows shoppers to efficiently find content of interest, automates campaign creation, and drives 2.5x higher click through rates on personalized content. In March we saw 28% more Vehicle Detail Page views and 99% more form submissions on brands running 0% financing and deferred payment incentives. By leveraging Automated Incentives, we will automatically generate assets for these highly engaging incentives and use our personalization algorithm to put the right one in front of that shopper based on their browsing history. Without lifting a finger, the dealership gets real-time assets in slideshows, banners, and specials pages tailored to that consumers preferences.
Some dealers have found success navigating the 100% virtual car sales experience, and the approaches and methods listed above are good habits to get adopt now. After social distancing orders are lifted there are two things that are likely to happen. First, we are going to see pent-up demand and dealerships will need tools to handle it efficiently, maximizing sales opportunities while also being mindful of costs. Also, people are going to gravitate back to their busy lifestyles. Work, errands, and parenting activities are just a few of the demands on our time. The need for convenient shopping options for consumers, accelerated and proven during this period, will remain and permanently influence the purchase experience.
At Dealer.com we are committed to our dealers, our team members, and our community. Our A-team of digital marketing experts are available to help you in any way we can. Wishing you all safety and health during this time.