Dealership Solutions for COVID-19 and Beyond

Our customers and our country are facing a difficult time, people are getting sick and business has dropped off sharply in most sectors. Despite being considered essential in most states, dealerships have seen significant decreases in service revenue and nearly complete losses in sales over the last month. Nearly all manufacturers have ceased production through April, both domestically and overseas. JD Power has restated their estimated 2020 vehicle sales from approximately 16 million, down to 14 million (which would represent an 18% decrease in sales year-over-year if proven accurate).

All of this comes at a time when car sales would typically be at a high period for the year, with standard tax-return season purchasing and OEM incentives, as well as exciting new models driving results. Many dealerships have learned that they are not prepared to market effectively to socially distanced customers. While most dealerships have updated their websites and social media platforms to let visitors know they are open and available, they just aren’t getting the reach they need to maintain business. As a result, many are furloughing or laying off staff.

Simply relying on your website and social media to reach out to the public isn’t enough, you must have an all-encompassing strategy. ASB is here to help with several solutions to weather the storm of COVID-19 and be prepared for the market that lies ahead.

Be Visible

Pre-COVID-19, it was assumed that at some point, a consumer was going to drive onto your lot to “kick the tires” on that vehicle they’ve been researching online. Now, we must find other ways to communicate with consumers. One obvious way that might easily be overlooked during these stressful times is banner and flag advertising. Some dealerships have begun to offer car sanitizing services and what better way to catch the eye of those essential workers driving by than with brightly colored feather banners waving gently in the Spring breeze?

Direct mail continues to be a great way to reach out to customers, consider increasing the size and frequency of your direct mail piece to communicate new arrivals, the significant current OEM financing offers and where they can conveniently browse your inventory and specials online. Which brings us to our next solution, the Mobile Dealer smart device app. This app allows consumers to browse new and used inventory, schedule a service appointment or test drive, view coupons and specials, refer on social media and more! Even better, it allows dealerships to communicate through push notifications and geo-fencing. The Mobile Dealer app takes approximately 1 week to set up and there are no costs to get started. To learn more about how this app can help you sell and service more units during the COVID-19 “quarantine” and beyond, contact your ASB associate to set up a 15-minute webinar demo.

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With more of your business taking place electronically, it’s going to be important that your online reputation and digital marketing plan are up to snuff. In partnership with Digital Air Strike, ASB offers several solutions to accomplish just that. Let Digital Air Strike ensure your ratings are appealing and your marketing is getting the most return on investment, contact your sales associate to schedule a webinar demo today.

Keep it Safe and Simple

Everyone is more aware now of how quickly and easily germs spread. As previously mentioned, dealerships have offered car sanitizing services as a means of driving revenue. To efficiently communicate that a vehicle has been sanitized, whether for a paid service or between test drives, consider a mirror hang tag or a vinyl window sticker saying, “I’m Sanitized”.

Promote safety with your customers by offering a free, branded face mask with a visit to the service department, or an essential car cleaning kit with the purchase of a new vehicle. These kits could include an antimicrobial towel, facial tissue holder and a trash can for easy cleaning.

Preparing for the Post-COVID Market

Many of the strategies that businesses have and will implement during the COVID-19 pandemic will carry-on long after the stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have ceased, such as the focus on technology-based “distance selling”. Consumers have become significantly more comfortable doing business online in the last month; to remain relevant, dealerships must as well.

Given so many sectors of the economy are struggling through this, consumer purchasing habits when it comes to automotive needs will shift from what was anticipated before the pandemic as well.

With 10 million filing for unemployment in the last two weeks and major authorities in the world of automotive sales downgrading their predictions for 2020, it is safe to wager that new car purchases will be delayed or not happen at all for many consumers. Used cars will increase in value and it will be advantageous and vital to ensure that your inventory of used vehicles looks its best. ASB offers a variety of reconditioning products and tools to shine up those diamonds in the rough. Consumers have also become more aware of the need to protect their investments. Demonstrating the value of an appearance protection program like Armor All SmartShield (available from ASB) will yield positive results in driving vehicle gross.

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The significant job loss the country is experiencing can be both a curse and a blessing. Once restrictions are lifted, there will be a lot of technicians looking for employment. Take advantage of this large and diverse pool of skilled workers by hosting a job fair at your dealership. You can advertise this job fair via traditional methods such as direct mail and print ads, we also recommend adding a promo item or two to give to attendees.

Many who were previously planning on purchasing a vehicle will likely decide to keep theirs for the foreseeable future meaning they will need repairs. Make sure that your future marketing plans include communicating with local consumers about special pricing for service and parts. This can be easily accomplished through aforementioned signage, direct mail and the Mobile Dealer app.

Those who are fortunate enough to come out of this situation with insignificant financial impact will take advantage of the generous financing offers the OEMs have put out to combat the sales crunch that comes with an economic downturn. In a parallel, but unrelated event, gas prices have dropped to 15-year lows. This means that the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles will likely decrease, while the immediate demand for trucks and SUVs increases. Make sure you’re advertising your new inventory of trucks and SUVs prominently in all your sales department marketing efforts.

 

American Solutions for Business is here to help you navigate through this unprecedented period. We’ve learned a lot in the last month about how we can help our customers adapt quickly to changing business practices and prepare for future market changes. ASB is open for business and here to serve your needs. To learn more about the solutions discussed in this article, reach out to your local ASB sales associate. Don’t have one? Click here to find an associate near you!

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