Posted March 30, 2020

Keeping your digital dealership open

With customer coronovirus concerns, it's more important than ever to allow shopping and renting online.

by Simon Heseltine

The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that the industry has faced before.  Most companies have a game plan for an economic downturn, but this is unique in recent history.  Customers are told to stay home, and when they go out, not to go within 6’feet of another person. In some states dealerships are closed, as non-essential businesses, but in the others, there’s still concern over the pandemic. So it only makes sense that you look to change how you currently do business and focus more on your digital storefront.

Your website
Make sure that you’ve optimized your website as much as possible, following Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. That way, you can be found for the queries on search engines that match your inventory. Also, look at the pathways that a user would take to find the vehicle they’re looking for and make sure they’re intuitive.

Your inventory
Make sure it’s up to date, is as descriptive as possible, and has the price clearly listed.  Look at the pictures you have up: do they show the vehicle from all angles, and in the best light? Consider adding a recorded video walkthrough of the unit to the inventory page.

Digital marketing spend
Studies over the last 100 years have consistently shown that in dire economic times, companies that maintain their level of marketing spend, or increase it, actually gain on their competitors, in some cases for up to three years after recovery. Also, if your competitors are cutting back on spend, it’s possible that you’ll get a better cost per click and cost per lead.

Live walkthrough
If a customer online is interested but can’t make it to the dealership and you still have salespeople on site, have them set up a video chat where they can do a walkthrough of the vehicle, answering questions as they go.

Look at ways that financing can be done remotely, from getting approvals to getting the documents legally signed.

Free delivery  and trials
Not many people are going to want to purchase a vehicle without a test drive, and without them coming to your dealership, the next best option may be taking the vehicle to them and letting them either trial it for a few days or giving a several-day money-back guarantee on the sale of the vehicle. Make sure to highlight that the vehicle will have been “deep cleaned” before delivery.

Editor note: Simon Heseltine is vice president of Audience Growth at Trader Interactive.