We are about to bid farewell to 2023 and the only word to describe the last 12 months is “strange”. A year that was believed to kick off the new decade on a high note turned out to be the most depressing year in recent history. Yes, we are referring to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
And it would be an understatement to say that car dealers felt the impact of COVID-19 in its full strength. With people not being able to visit car showrooms in person, the demand and sale of cars declined gradually over 2023.
While it may be too late to expect a rebound in sales this year, the CarExpertGroup does have a few suggestions on how Car Dealers can survive the ongoing pandemic moving forward.
Going Digital is the Best (and only Reliable) Option
Over the years, we have seen a lot of businesses going digital. From buying groceries and home appliances to booking a flight ticket, everything can be done with the comfort of a single click.
Despite the evolution of the digital age, the car industry preferred to continue operating the standard way i.e. requiring potential customers to visit the showroom in person, spend hours gauging their options, sign the appropriate documentation, and then take the car home.
However, the implementation of a countrywide lockdown put a halt to this practice. With people having to follow social distancing rules at all times and remain locked inside their homes, it was a clear indication that the automobile industry would take a hit.
As per J.D. Power, the first 19 days of March 2023 saw the demand of vehicles in the US dropping by 13%. If that didn’t sound concerning enough, the demand dipped by as much as 22% in certain states such as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Moreover, Evercore ISI analysts conducted a survey of about 40 dealers during the early days of the pandemic, and the data showed that the annual selling rate could peak at 12 million vehicles, signifying an impact as deep as that created by the financial crisis of 2008/2009.
However, a ray of hope emerged out of the blue when it was revealed that around 1,000 car dealers based in the US and Canada (facilitated by Roadster) witnessed a growth of almost 6% in their online traffic. Roadster is a centralized platform that not only finances paperwork but also offers vehicle delivery service.
Moreover, car dealers such as Vroom and Carvana have been accepting online payments and delivering vehicles at the doorstep of the customer. However, it should be noted that the aforementioned dealers deal in used cars only. As for automakers embracing e-commerce, Tesla was among the first car companies to conduct its business online.
If struggling dealers intend on surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, they have to get used to entertaining remote transactions and offer the option of delivery.
But going digital wouldn’t be as easy as it seems at first. A major reason why dealers prefer having potential customers visit their showroom is so that their salespeople could do their magic and convince the interested individual to make the decision and close the sale.
However, with everything (paperwork, discussion, negotiation, payment, etc.) going online, improving the online communication skills of their sales staff should be the top priority for almost every dealership.
Using automated responses that will be sent to anyone who shows interest in a vehicle, could be a wrong idea. The said response could contain details that the potential customer didn’t ask for and it’s also possible that it misses out on many details that the customer asked about. And this lackluster experience could turn them away from your business.
Therefore, optimizing their “internet sales departments” can do wonders for car dealerships. They have to learn how to win a customer’s trust by issuing timely and effective responses to their queries.
While figuring out how to conduct online transactions has been one of the most tiresome tasks of the entire shifting process, certain dealerships have already succeeded with that and are now working on offering top-of-the-line delivery services.
There’s no denying the fact that COVID-19 has had a lasting impact this year. From startups to well-established businesses, several industries took a major hit in the wake of this pandemic and that includes car dealerships.
In order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, the best shot that the dealerships have is to conduct their business online. While this may not fix everything overnight, it could prove to be extremely helpful in the future.