“Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower.” – Steve Jobs
As an automotive industry veteran with over 20 years of experience at some of the nation’s top dealerships and brands, I know firsthand that there’s a seasonality to our business.
But you don’t have to be an industry insider to know when cars sell: Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and Christmas.
That said, February is an opportunistic time for car dealerships because Presidents’ Day is the only shopping holiday between December and May, and five months is a long time to be without a holiday-inspired incentive.
Unsurprisingly, the automotive industry is investing significantly and creatively on their Presidents’ Day plans this year – especially given the rapid acceleration of interest in online car-buying due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I predict online car orders will increase fivefold during Presidents’ Day weekend (Feb. 13-15). How can I say that with such certainty?
Well, online checkout volume in January was four times year-over-year and, given the impact of the pandemic – and analysis of dealer website and showroom traffic thus far – we can confidently predict this online trend accelerating this month.
Beyond the annual surge in auto sales we’ve come to expect on Presidents’ Day, why do we expect such a dramatic boost in online transactions? Consider these reasons:
- Consumers are seeking the convenience, safety and low stress of remote online buying
- Dealers are offering exceptional Presidents’ Day deals
- Finance rates are historically low
Now, more than ever before in automotive history, consumers are seeking the convenience, control and peace of mind of online buying during this “pre herd-immunity” winter, and they will be highly motivated during the holiday weekend by creative and incentive-packed Presidents’ Day specials offered by innovative dealers.
Because dealers expect lower showroom foot traffic as a result of public health measures, they are focusing on attracting online prospects through creative marketing and incentives.
This focus on online experiences is an acceleration of an existing trend. For several years, buyers have increasingly expressed their desire for more convenient ways to find and purchase their next car.
Leading dealers have been deploying intelligent, multi-channel solutions that enable customers to make virtually the entire purchase online. The best of these solutions puts the customer in control, giving them the option of conducting any step in the car buying process online, in the showroom or a mix of both:
- Reviewing the inventory and selecting a vehicle
- Getting a trade-in vehicle offer
- Learning about and selecting available F&I products and accessories
- Calculating payments and selecting a lender
- Signing documentation
- Scheduling pick-up/delivery
When done right, offering this customer-centric convenience not only helps dealers attract new customers but also drives greater dealer profitability. A well-designed e-commerce experience helps inform and educate customers throughout the purchase process, leading to greater uptake in profitable F&I products and dealer upgrades.
The annual midwinter slowdown can often feel gloomy, with the November and December holiday rush behind us and the warmth of spring still months ahead.
And due to COVID-19, this year in particular may seem gloomier than usual. Leveraging Presidents’ Day incentives to drive revenue has been a “go-to” strategy for our sector, but this year the real innovators are blending exciting incentives with data-driven, customer-centric online experiences. The industry will never be the same.
The acceleration of automotive e-commerce experiences will help spur sales at dealers across the country. We can anticipate a big push to move older stock that’s been sitting on the lot, powered by omni-channel online marketing and technologies that put the customer in control of the purchase experience.
By focusing on the needs and desires of your customers – and delivering it to them with smart, thoughtful technology – you can set yourself up for success all year long.