Though many dealerships had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty stores saw it as an opportunity to modify operations and reroute business online.
Today, almost all roads lead to a dealer’s website, even (and sometimes especially) when a customer might prefer to come into the showroom. In fact, 83% of customers want to do at least one step of the car-buying journey online.
Customers are bound to have a lot of questions, especially amid all the recent changes and phased reopening across the country. That’s why the following must be addressed on every dealer website.
1. Is the dealership open, and if so, what safety precautions are being taken? The most helpful thing a dealership can do is to provide accurate information to its customers and communicate frequently.
This can be done in a few key places with highly visible website messaging, such as on slides, banners, and landing pages. Also include it in social media and email. Place this information prominently so customers looking to visit in-person know their options.
Quick and simple access to information is the best way to let customers know a dealer is open and eager to do business.
2. What’s the best way to reach a dealer if someone doesn’t want to visit a dealership? It can be difficult to replace in-person visits, but virtual interactions are the next-best thing to keeping many dealerships operating closer to normal. Connect virtually and make shoppers feel as though you’re in the room with them. Video chat makes the digital experience even more visible and gives dealers a direct and real-time opportunity to talk to customers.
Bring shoppers closer with an interactive in-person conversation, building trust and conversion. Virtual options offer opportunities to close more deals and provide better service in one easily accessible place. With many dealers trying to reconcile ongoing labor costs as they bring stores back online, technology help with those efficiencies.
3. Can I get my car serviced or repaired? Let customers know what’s done to ensure safety during service appointments. Outline it simply on the website, whether it’s offering no-contact car services, having a delivery and pickup option, videos showing the disinfection process or listing variable service hours to reduce the number of technicians in the dealership at a given time.
Fixed-operation advertising campaigns with content to support these new service processes create added awareness as consumers look into how to get their cars serviced during the pandemic.
4. How much of the car buying process can be done online? More customers are looking to digitally complete their car shopping process online. Listing exactly what steps are available online on the website will help capture those customers. These digital retailing shoppers should be treated as much farther along in the buying process, especially if they are using online tools in lieu of an in-store visit. Consumers are investing time in the process online and should be rewarded for that with personalized, relevant follow-up communications. Leverage digital tools to help make the car-buying experience from home easier.
5. Is the dealership offering home vehicle delivery, test drives or other social distancing options?
With shoppers still taking precautions, offering convenient options for them can lead to more potential buyers for a dealer. Like the service process, simple messaging via landing pages, advertising and website slides or banners go a long way.
Let your shoppers know you have touchless delivery options available.
Consumers will inevitably have questions and want to call, email, or text the dealership for more information. Make sure the steps to get those questions answered are clear and readily available. It’s important to nurture every lead and ensure your response is timely.
This is a new experience for all of us, and we’re all navigating this together. Dedicate online real estate to explain what you’re doing to protect employees and customers.
One silver lining of COVID-19 is that online shopping has provided an alternative location for business to take place. It also accelerated the adoption of technology that many consumers desired before the pandemic deemed it necessary. Now, more dealers are ready to take on the next era of auto retailing where their web experience is the customer gateway to their business.
Bob George is assistant vice president-product management at Dealer.com.