The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that the industry has ever faced. Most companies have a game plan for an economic downturn, but this situation is unlike any other in recent history. Many people in the country are advised to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, instructed to go out only for groceries, doctors’ appointments, and other necessary trips. In some areas, those who go out must possess a permit that indicates their trip is essential. Even when people do go out, they are not to go within 6 ft of another person.
In some states dealerships are cited as non-essential businesses and forced to remain closed. In other states where dealerships are allowed to remain open, concern over the pandemic prevents buyers from venturing onto dealer lots. If you’re a dealership owner—or own any business forced to close due to being “non-essential”—it only makes sense that you look to change how you currently do business and focus more on your digital storefront.
Below is a list of tips to help shift your focus from in-store to online selling.
Make sure you’ve optimized your website as much as possible, following search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Designing a website with SEO in mind helps generate and increase organic traffic to the site. An optimized website is more easily found from the queries on search engines that match your inventory. Also, look at the pathways that a user would take to find their perfect vehicle. Make sure visitors can navigate your site easily and efficiently. Because your site is the face of your company during this time, it should be simple and intuitive yet eye catching and distinguishable.
An optimized website attracts visitors to your site, but a robust inventory keeps them there. The inventory on your site should be up to date, as descriptive as possible, and have the price clearly listed. Think about the pictures currently on your site. If you sell vehicles, do your images show the vehicle from all angles and in the best light? A picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure your images truly capture your product. If your current images lack a “wow factor,” consider hiring a professional photographer to capture images of your inventory. This can easily be done while abiding by social distancing guidelines. Finally, consider adding a recorded video walkthrough of the unit to the inventory page. This allows visitors to your site to get a much better grasp of the product without having to leave the comfort of their home.
DIGITAL MARKETING SPEND
Although most companies look for ways to cut costs during these uncertain times, don’t find yourself tempted to slash your digital marketing budget. Studies over the last 100 years have consistently shown that in dire economic times, companies that maintain their level of marketing spend, or increase it, actually gain on their competitors—in some cases for up to three years after recovery! Everyone feels the impact of COVID-19, but essential business are still open and some busier than ever before. The buyers are out there. Let them know that you’re out there with them through digital marketing.
Another important aspect to note: If your competitors are cutting back on digital marketing spend, it’s possible that you’ll get a better cost per click and cost per lead.
What happens if an online customer is interested but can’t make it to the dealership? If you still have salespeople on-site, have them set up a video chat with the customer that allows them to do a walkthrough of the product, answering the customers’ questions as they go. If you don’t have on-site sales personnel during working hours, establish a way for customers and sales to set up an appointment for the live walkthrough to take place.
Financing can be done remotely. Check out your remote-financing options from getting approvals to getting the documents legally signed. There are many secure, legal document signing online programs/forms to choose from. Find the one that works best for you and your business.
FREE DELIVERY & TRIALS
Not many serious buyers will to want to make a large purchase, such as a vehicle, without a trial period or a test drive, and test drives are impossible to conduct remotely. Without customers physically at the dealership, your only option may be to take the vehicle to them and let them trial it for a few days. Another option is to offer a several day money-back guarantee on the sale of the vehicle. Make sure to highlight that the vehicle will have been “deep cleaned” before delivery.
There’s no denying the fact that everyone on the planet has been affected by COVID-19. But it’s important to keep our lives as normal as possible—even if that means changing the way we do business. If you’re unable to conduct business face-to-face, ramp up your online presence and let buyers know that although your offices may be closed, you’re still open for business—remotely, that is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Heseltine is the vice president of audience growth at Trader Interactive. Trader Interactive is the parent company of Commercial Truck Trader. Find out more, visit www.traderinteractive.com or www.commercialtrucktrader.com.