What’s a Car Dealership to Do?

Are you doing these digital things yet? If so, make sure consumers know about it.

Ami Sirlin

July 14, 2020

3 Min Read
open for business
Tell customers if your sales department is open (and whether there are new pandemic-related protocols) and to what extent you offer digital retailing.Getty Images

How can dealerships hit the curveballs currently being thrown during the pandemic as it relates to managing a smart digital marketing strategy?  

As you can imagine, we’ve had many conversations about this lately. As we dig in, there are common recurring themes:

  • “What business changes should be considered?”

  •  What should my advertising message be?”

  • “How do I stay connected to customers?”

  • What business changes should be considered?

One thing is certain, and that is the increased consumption of digital marketing. An Interactive Advertising Bureau poll indicates 86% of people surveyed are consuming more media than they did before COVID-19. 

More people are on social sites and streaming TV. They’re surfing the web. They are seeking out information. And, yes, they are visiting dealership websites.

Yet, we see fewer conversions. Some people appear to be getting stuck in the research phase of the process and aren’t necessarily moving further down the purchase path.

We can attribute much of this to the current economic state and financial uncertainty. There is not much we can do about that, but there are things a dealership can do to remain top of mind.

First, evaluate your virtual presence. Is it clear? Have you updated it since we started to adapt to this new normal? If you have, knowing this is a fluid situation, have you continued to update it?

A great in-market example we have seen is with West Virginia-based Jenkins Automotive Group. Upon entering its site, you are notified of all precautions it is taking for consumer safety. All COVID-related information is easily found on the site and has been communicated in its social media efforts. 

If you haven’t done it already, update your website and social pages to set the proper expectations for customers. While evaluating the rest of your virtual presence, think about these key questions that drive the customer experience:

  • Is your sales department open as normal? 

  • Are you offering digital retailing?

  • How is the service department handling appointments?

  • What is the sanitization process after servicing cars?

  • How are you handling payments?

Reputation management is more important than ever. Make sure someone is paying attention to customer requests, questions and feedback across all channels.

Your website and reputation management are the foundations of your advertising and need to be managed with clarity and efficiency. After all, what is digital advertising other than a way to entice people to visit your website or social-media pages?

If customers find themselves on a landing page and their path becomes unclear, you’ve wasted ad dollars. This may be partly why some potential clients are not moving through the purchase path and converting; there may be an uncertainty of how to do so.

We cannot afford to disrupt the customer journey, so focusing on timely engagement and relevant content are key to digital presence.

How do you stay connected to customers who don’t go into your store? Keep in mind that consumers are now expecting an online experience to be a part of their shopping patterns coming out of the pandemic.

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Continue to offer creative shopper experiences to keep customers engaged and interested. There are many out-of-the-box alternatives to purchasing activities traditionally done in-person, such as offering virtual test rides, online financing negotiations, pick-up and drop-off options for service and even front-to-back digital retailing. (Ami Sirlin, left)

Are you doing these things yet? If so, make sure potential customers know you are. Each of us is learning and growing to best understand what our “new normal” will look like. In times like these, the message matters more than the measurement. How will your dealership be remembered?

Ami Sirlin is vice president of the Goodway Group, a digital marketing firm.

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