The COVID-19 crisis has changed your dealership, if not for the long term, at least through the summer. Whether your dealership is in an area slowly re-opening or under continued restrictions, there is a consistent theme. Every dealership is re-opening to a new reality and to a different kind of shopper.

We won’t spend tons of time here unpacking the prime new buyer pool emerging from the crisis. (I’m talking about first time buyers in the 25-35 age bracket who generally rely on ride-sharing and public transportation.) This new buyer pool, along with previous buyers who have been forced to modify and even change their buying preferences during the COVID-19 shut downs, require dealerships to remain adaptable on our journey towards a new normal.

Most dealerships responded to the crisis quickly — modifying the buying process, adapting procedures, and re-thinking how and where to engage shoppers. The result? Many have made it possible for more, if not the majority, of the car buying experience to occur from the safety of the shopper’s home. And rather than expect this reality to fade quickly, be prepared to build on these efforts and be ready to add layers of innovation as you re-open.

Here are a few ideas to enhance your re-opening strategy.

1 Re-envision Sales Events and Community engagement

Typically, summer kicks off a string of holiday sales events at dealerships across the country. In a COVID-19 reality, dealerships must continue to stay connected with their communities, through alternative methods. Adapting your community events to a post-COVID world will continue to facilitate a safe experience for the shoppers.

Here are some ideas to drive community engagement:

  • Honor First Responders with additional incentives.
  • Consider holiday promotions that build-up the community – book an appointment and receive a gift card to support a local small business.
  • Decorate your dealership inventory and bring a holiday parade through surrounding neighborhoods. Consider collecting items for the local food pantry along the way.
  • Incorporate community give-backs to appointments and sales, such as a portion of your purchase will be donated to a local hospital, food pantry or charity of choice.
  • Want to host a classic car show? Host it on Facebook Live and invite individuals by appointment only.
2 Focus on creating experiences through website and social

Your online presence needs to move from informational to experiential. Start looking at your website and social media as an experience for the shopper where they intuitively know that a good portion of your buying process remains online. List the options you now provide to shoppers, including: online appointments, virtual walk-arounds and trade appraisals, online paperwork, at-home vehicle delivery and service pick-up. This will give shoppers peace-of-mind as they begin their new car buying experience.

3 Play the long game with leads

Contact all of your open leads and share the steps your dealership is taking to maintain a safe environment. This will help refill your sales pipeline. It is likely that lead follow-up was less consistent during COVID-19 as your employees adapted to their new at-home working situation.

Keep in mind, COVID-19 will have affected many shoppers’ propensity to purchase as well. It may take more frequency of communication than usual to validate their interest and get them back in the frame of mind to purchase a vehicle. Stick with it. Play the long game.

4 BE proactive with online car shoppers

There are people shopping, but more and more they are doing as much as possible online. Focus your marketing on engaging shoppers where they are and at the beginning of their buying journey.

It’s not enough to run traditional ads, it is imperative you help these online shoppers know what to expect. Consumers are not sure what they will be returning to when the pandemic is over. Letting them know what your dealership is doing to keep their safety at the forefront and personalizing the message based on their needs, will separate you from dealerships who return to business-as-usual.

5 Connect with your database

Relationships are built on communication and mutual understanding. Keep the lines of communication open for your loyal customers. Continue personalized and proactive communication that reassures them you are making their safety your priority when they return to shopping.

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 crisis will change life as we know it, but we do know it will change automotive for the summer. Implementing these best practices will help you return your dealership to a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible, while evolving to a changed shopper.

Re-opening your dealership will not be a perfect science. However, creating a strategy which adapts to the needs of your customers will shorten the time it will take for your dealership to recover.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed your dealership, if not for the long term, at least through the summer. Whether your dealership is in an area slowly re-opening or under continued restrictions, there is a consistent theme. Every dealership is re-opening to a new reality and to a different kind of shopper.

We won’t spend tons of time here unpacking the prime new buyer pool emerging from the crisis. (I’m talking about first time buyers in the 25-35 age bracket who generally rely on ride-sharing and public transportation.) This new buyer pool, along with previous buyers who have been forced to modify and even change their buying preferences during the COVID-19 shut downs, require dealerships to remain adaptable on our journey towards a new normal.

Most dealerships responded to the crisis quickly — modifying the buying process, adapting procedures, and re-thinking how and where to engage shoppers. The result? Many have made it possible for more, if not the majority, of the car buying experience to occur from the safety of the shopper’s home. And rather than expect this reality to fade quickly, be prepared to build on these efforts and be ready to add layers of innovation as you re-open.

Here are a few ideas to enhance your re-opening strategy.

 

1 Re-envision Sales Events and Community engagement

Typically, summer kicks off a string of holiday sales events at dealerships across the country. In a COVID-19 reality, dealerships must continue to stay connected with their communities, through alternative methods. Adapting your community events to a post-COVID world will continue to facilitate a safe experience for the shoppers.

Here are some ideas to drive community engagement:

  • Honor First Responders with additional incentives.
  • Consider holiday promotions that build-up the community – book an appointment and receive a gift card to support a local small business.
  • Decorate your dealership inventory and bring a holiday parade through surrounding neighborhoods. Consider collecting items for the local food pantry along the way.
  • Incorporate community give-backs to appointments and sales, such as a portion of your purchase will be donated to a local hospital, food pantry or charity of choice.
  • Want to host a classic car show? Host it on Facebook Live and invite individuals by appointment only.

 

2 Focus on creating experiences through website and social

Your online presence needs to move from informational to experiential. Start looking at your website and social media as an experience for the shopper where they intuitively know that a good portion of your buying process remains online. List the options you now provide to shoppers, including: online appointments, virtual walk-arounds and trade appraisals, online paperwork, at-home vehicle delivery and service pick-up. This will give shoppers peace-of-mind as they begin their new car buying experience.

 

3 Play the long game with leads

Contact all of your open leads and share the steps your dealership is taking to maintain a safe environment. This will help refill your sales pipeline. It is likely that lead follow-up was less consistent during COVID-19 as your employees adapted to their new at-home working situation.

Keep in mind, COVID-19 will have affected many shoppers’ propensity to purchase as well. It may take more frequency of communication than usual to validate their interest and get them back in the frame of mind to purchase a vehicle. Stick with it. Play the long game.

 

4 BE proactive with online car shoppers

There are people shopping, but more and more they are doing as much as possible online. Focus your marketing on engaging shoppers where they are and at the beginning of their buying journey.

It’s not enough to run traditional ads, it is imperative you help these online shoppers know what to expect. Consumers are not sure what they will be returning to when the pandemic is over. Letting them know what your dealership is doing to keep their safety at the forefront and personalizing the message based on their needs, will separate you from dealerships who return to business-as-usual.

 

5 Connect with your database

Relationships are built on communication and mutual understanding. Keep the lines of communication open for your loyal customers. Continue personalized and proactive communication that reassures them you are making their safety your priority when they return to shopping.

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 crisis will change life as we know it, but we do know it will change automotive for the summer. Implementing these best practices will help you return your dealership to a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible, while evolving to a changed shopper.

Re-opening your dealership will not be a perfect science. However, creating a strategy which adapts to the needs of your customers will shorten the time it will take for your dealership to recover.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed your dealership, if not for the long term, at least through the summer. Whether your dealership is in an area slowly re-opening or under continued restrictions, there is a consistent theme. Every dealership is re-opening to a new reality and to a different kind of shopper.

We won’t spend tons of time here unpacking the prime new buyer pool emerging from the crisis. (I’m talking about first time buyers in the 25-35 age bracket who generally rely on ride-sharing and public transportation.) This new buyer pool, along with previous buyers who have been forced to modify and even change their buying preferences during the COVID-19 shut downs, require dealerships to remain adaptable on our journey towards a new normal.

Most dealerships responded to the crisis quickly — modifying the buying process, adapting procedures, and re-thinking how and where to engage shoppers. The result? Many have made it possible for more, if not the majority, of the car buying experience to occur from the safety of the shopper’s home. And rather than expect this reality to fade quickly, be prepared to build on these efforts and be ready to add layers of innovation as you re-open.

Here are a few ideas to enhance your re-opening strategy.

1 Re-envision Sales Events and Community engagement

Typically, summer kicks off a string of holiday sales events at dealerships across the country. In a COVID-19 reality, dealerships must continue to stay connected with their communities, through alternative methods. Adapting your community events to a post-COVID world will continue to facilitate a safe experience for the shoppers.

Here are some ideas to drive community engagement:

  • Honor First Responders with additional incentives.
  • Consider holiday promotions that build-up the community – book an appointment and receive a gift card to support a local small business.
  • Decorate your dealership inventory and bring a holiday parade through surrounding neighborhoods. Consider collecting items for the local food pantry along the way.
  • Incorporate community give-backs to appointments and sales, such as a portion of your purchase will be donated to a local hospital, food pantry or charity of choice.
  • Want to host a classic car show? Host it on Facebook Live and invite individuals by appointment only.

2 Focus on creating experiences through website and social

Your online presence needs to move from informational to experiential. Start looking at your website and social media as an experience for the shopper where they intuitively know that a good portion of your buying process remains online. List the options you now provide to shoppers, including: online appointments, virtual walk-arounds and trade appraisals, online paperwork, at-home vehicle delivery and service pick-up. This will give shoppers peace-of-mind as they begin their new car buying experience.

3 Play the long game with leads

Contact all of your open leads and share the steps your dealership is taking to maintain a safe environment. This will help refill your sales pipeline. It is likely that lead follow-up was less consistent during COVID-19 as your employees adapted to their new at-home working situation.

Keep in mind, COVID-19 will have affected many shoppers’ propensity to purchase as well. It may take more frequency of communication than usual to validate their interest and get them back in the frame of mind to purchase a vehicle. Stick with it. Play the long game.

4 BE proactive with online car shoppers

There are people shopping, but more and more they are doing as much as possible online. Focus your marketing on engaging shoppers where they are and at the beginning of their buying journey.

It’s not enough to run traditional ads, it is imperative you help these online shoppers know what to expect. Consumers are not sure what they will be returning to when the pandemic is over. Letting them know what your dealership is doing to keep their safety at the forefront and personalizing the message based on their needs, will separate you from dealerships who return to business-as-usual.

5 Connect with your database

Relationships are built on communication and mutual understanding. Keep the lines of communication open for your loyal customers. Continue personalized and proactive communication that reassures them you are making their safety your priority when they return to shopping.

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 crisis will change life as we know it, but we do know it will change automotive for the summer. Implementing these best practices will help you return your dealership to a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible, while evolving to a changed shopper.

Re-opening your dealership will not be a perfect science. However, creating a strategy which adapts to the needs of your customers will shorten the time it will take for your dealership to recover.