There has been a massive shift in our world in the last few weeks. Change and uncertainty are really scary. But we have also noticed some beautiful moments happening as we acclimate: video chats with people we don’t often see; kindness between neighbors; having some time to learn new skills; or exploring new places by hiking or biking while socially distancing.
I recognize that the current climate is not easy for businesses. Car dealerships are no exception. But I think there are small changes that could make a big difference in a few weeks so that we can shift our businesses to meet customers where they are: their homes.
While uncertainty might delay some purchases, the digital transformation towards shopping online has already been accelerating everywhere. We expect shoppers to be doing more from home in the coming weeks. Now is the right time for dealers everywhere to make sure they are easy to find online and that branding throughout their website speaks to how consumer shopping has changed.
How can I make sure my dealership is easy for shoppers to find online?
Reducing monthly spend is on top of everyone’s mind and it’s no surprise dealers are looking to cut costs where they can. Think twice before cutting your spend from third party listing sites like TrueCar, CarGurus, and Cars.com. I believe these sites are more important today than they were two weeks ago now that the majority of people are limited to shopping from their homes. Some sites have already added buy from home capabilities, including highlighting dealers with digital retailing tools and sanitized home delivery. Anticipate customers spending more time researching and comparing their options online than they have in the past. This means aggregators will become a more essential part of the buyer journey as consumers shop your showroom from home instead of coming into the store.
Brian Pasch’s recent CBT show evaluated third-party classified marketplaces. In it, he shares that the cost per VDP view of third party classified sites is 4-5 times lower than the cost when dealers buy traffic themselves. I hear you. Third-party listing sites cost a lot of money and we know you’re already trying to figure out how to pay your staff if you haven’t had to make the tough decision to reduce the number of employees at your dealership. While there is a huge need to save, it would be short-sighted to get rid of a service that provides such incredible ROI.
These third party vendor sites recognize this and they’re trying to help. To date, I’ve seen almost every major automotive vendor offering relief for their dealer partners to help them conserve cash. Most provide billing models that justify their monthly rate based on either consumer activity or sales. This means monthly bills will adjust with the value provided to your business, a reflection of both your more limited budget, fewer customers in store, and the vendors’ commitment to partnering with dealerships.
How do I make sure my branding everywhere speaks to how people are shopping?
Many dealers I’ve spoken to have modified a significant portion of their business in response to COVID-19. Most have updated their homepage with their cleaning procedures and measures for shopping from home. Some stores have modified hours and closed their showrooms. The buyer journey is now fragmented, which means it is more important than ever to make sure these messages are consistent everywhere online. Shoppers on TrueCar need to hear about your home delivery. Google My Business should be updated with your new hours and offerings. Phone messages should be recorded again with your business improvements.
In the short term, our service businesses are classified as essential operations, even as sales might dip or close completely. It’s a great time to focus website visitors on the changes you’re making in service and how you still provide them a valued service thoughtfully and safely. For example, Andy Guelcher, Jeff Haraden, and the team at Mohawk Honda have done a great job updating their homepage with details of their service department’s modified operations, contactless pickup/delivery, and sanitization of touch points in your vehicle.
How else can dealerships stay relevant today?
When stay at home advisories are finished, the apprehension around crowded spaces and social distancing will linger. But I have good news for you: dealers already have tools to keep consumers informed from afar about new inventory, the status of their vehicle in service, or where customers stand on their current lease. Now is the time to make sure your website describes these procedures and tools so shoppers know they can drop their car off without waiting, that their entire transaction can be completed with their phone, and that you can discuss what new vehicle might be right for them remotely. It will be a long time before people sit in a waiting room for their oil change to be completed, so make sure the changes aren’t just in a modal or alert that will be removed. These should be thoughtful, prominent updates on your website.
The next few weeks are likely to have as much change as the last few weeks. But people will still need to get to their destination, whether in a new car, a more affordable used car, or their repaired current car. It’s our job as dealers to be ready to meet them… just not in person!
Have questions? Want to review your website together? I’d love to take a look with you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch!