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COX Automotive has produced a snapshot of how dealers can thrive in a world that has become a very different market to one only two months ago.

“Thriving in the New Normal” is a guide for dealers and OEMs and aimed at US audiences, however it has similar applications for Australia.

The guide, based on a Cox survey, said 33 per cent of potential buyers have delayed purchasing a vehicle because of COVID-19 but that indicates pent-up demand will see sales made in this calendar year’s third and fourth quarter.

Cox said now is the time to prepare for those motorists as they begin to transit to new-car owners.

In its guide, it recommends dealers invest in advertising now to let customers know what is available.

“Tout your special finance rates, payment deferral, incentives and touchless retailing and  servicing with video campaigns and site personalisation,” it said.

“Use display ads, third-party site homepage takeovers, custom landing pages and unique and creative ways to highlight vehicles and what makes them better than your competition.”

Previous research by Cox in the US has found that most brands retail to less than 50 per cent of their current owner base, showing dealers cannot rely on brand loyalty to win sales.

Given the current pandemic environment, Cox also urges that dealerships create a touchless retail experience. It lists:

  • Shopfronts: Keep all your OEM, dealer and third-party sites updated with easy-to-navigate and accurate information, clearly show opening hours and all the ways to contact the dealer.
  • Vehicle Walk Arounds: Engage all your properties, third-party sites, social channels and YouTube to spotlight your cars and features.
  • Deal making: Ensure your retailers use digital retailing tools along with relevant and personalised follow-up communications.
  • Trade-in valuation: Give consumers the most up-to-date values with price guaranteed values by third parties.
  • Digital Contracting: Keep your brand relationships strong by giving consumers speed in funding and at home paperless contract finalisation.
  • Two-way communication: Communicate to consumers in real-time using email, text, chat, or video via phone or dealership social media channels.
  • Test drives: Safely drop off and pick up sanitised vehicles for test drives. Ensure proper process and technology to manage fleet location and usage.
  • Delivery: Safely deliver sanitised vehicles directly to customers at the location of their choice. Pick up their trade-ins, then remarket or wholesale them.

Cox said touchless communication should also be extended to the workshop by letting customers know that they offer a safe service experience with features such as sanitised pick-up and delivery and the option of a loan vehicle that has been cleaned and disinfected.

In the service department, dealers should look at improving customer relationships by sending before and after pictures and/or videos of the service or repair.

This would show customers the work being done and requesting written approvals where necessary to generate higher returns.

Customers should also have various payment options and dealers should encourage non-contact payments including text and email requests for payment.

Vehicles should be disinfected and cabin air cleansed after leaving the workshop and dealers are advised to leave visible signs that this has been done so the customer is more confident about the cleanliness of the car. The car keys should also be cleaned.

Cox said that at the end of the sales, parts or service experience, dealers should stay in contact with the customer with a personal note.

This could include anything relevant to the dealership, including changes to its operations – store hours, new facilities, special deals and so on – to encourage people to revisit.

“Think beyond just coupons and create loyalty clubs and apps,” Cox suggests.

“Use and promote touchless service to impress consumers. Drop thank you notes and pleasant surprises that are personalised and meaningful.

“Gift cards to a favorite coffee shop, phone chargers, mugs, golf balls etc are ways to maintain communication with customers.”

By Neil Dowling

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