We couldn’t be more impressed with the way dealerships handled the COVID-19 crisis. While some forward-thinking dealers had already implemented digital retailing solutions in the months and years prior, many others didn’t hesitate to identify and utilize the obvious solution to worldwide lockdowns.
In a matter of weeks, hundreds of dealers across North America came in search of the right digital retailing platform to support them even when their showrooms went dark. They thoughtfully integrated “shop from home” messaging into their websites and advertising, and made online purchases the focal point of their sales pitches.
As quickly as these things hit us, though, they can be forgotten; with COVID-19, I can certainly understand why you’d want to forget. But aside from the obvious health perils of resuming our lives too early, there’s another very powerful reason why you should take a strategic, measured approach to reopening your showroom doors.
The Expectations were Already There
If you’ve read my column or heard me speak at past events, you’ll know that I’ve been forever telling the industry that our car buying customers want more from our websites. Surrounded by easier ways to buy, car shoppers wanted more from us.
In a world of online shopping and omni-channel purchase choices, the automotive industry has always been a bit of a dinosaur thanks to our conspicuous lack of digital options. We stuck with pen and paper when our customers wanted keyboards and touchscreens.
The pressure of the pandemic supercharged the existing digital revolution in the automotive industry; we were already starting to move rapidly towards digital retailing, but COVID-19 caused an explosion in adoption that made online shopping the new normal for dealerships.
Now, your challenge is small but simple: keep that momentum going.
Don’t Lose the Trust You Built
The world may be opening up again, but your customers don’t want to go back to the way things were. According to the Frost & Sullivan Auto Assessment Briefing, altered consumer demand and market dynamics will suppress showroom activity while creating a substantial lift in online shopping for the industry.
In fact, the Frost & Sullivan report places digital retailing as the main driver of growth for our industry as we emerge from the pandemic. Online shopping wasn’t a fad or a stop-gap measure: it was a gift in disguise.
So this is the time for your dealership to plan not only your reopening strategy, but your approach for coming back stronger than ever. You’ve just proven to your customers that you can give them what they wanted from you all along, and it’s time to double-down on that.
Commit to Digital Retailing
Marketing is a great place to start as you move forward, so make sure your digital retailing solution is front-and-centre in all your awareness efforts. No matter how your customers hear about you, it’s critical that they know they can shop your dealership online.
Next, follow through on your marketing promises by providing a great in-store experience. Digital retailing can’t take a backseat if it’s going to impress customers – or even meet their expectations. Instead, it should be central to your sales process.
This means building out a thoughtful and efficient process at your dealership to handle an omni-channel workflow of customers moving online to in-store, in-store to online, or even online straight to purchase. If you’re not familiar with the importance of a true omnichannel digital retailing platform, you can read about it in my March column for Canadian AutoWorld.
Meet Consumer Demand
With a great strategy constructed on a great digital retailing platform, the future is yours. A recent Think with Google article showed that demand for cars hasn’t been significantly depressed by the pandemic, but it has been altered in another way: people want to buy online more than ever. Your customers are still out there if you know how to reach them.
There will always be challenges ahead, but we have the strength and the know-how to face them as an industry. With the right tools and an intelligent approach, we can all emerge from this stronger than ever.
Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.
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