7 Tips for Operating Your Car Dealership During Social Distancing

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there’s a lot of uncertainty around the automotive industry. One thing certain is that this situation is forcing automotive dealers to adjust their strategy to accommodate to a customer’s new buying process through social distancing. I’ve listed 7 tips that car dealers can take action on during this time even if you are “Sheltering In Place.”

1. Methodical Inventory Acquisition Strategy

During tax time, we typically move a mile a minute selling cars and restocking as fast as we can. Now that we have more time on our hands, it’s important we use the tools around us to make more intelligent inventory acquisitions. That means spending a few extra minutes on each vehicle evaluating book values, reading through vehicle history reports, and understanding the market value of the car.

Overload yourself with information because you must be precise in your inventory acquisition strategy. If you are expecting a decrease in sales volume, make sure you can fill the void in increased margins. Thus, only relying on book values is not enough. Pay attention to market values using tools like MAX Digital to help you anticipate what you can sell the car for.

2. Spend More Time Merchandising Vehicles

For some, this crisis has allowed some dealers the time to clean up many administrative duties that they have postponed. Using this time to clean up your online presence is critical. Tasks like improving your photo quality of your vehicles posted on listing sites, writing detailed descriptions, and creating a custom photo overlay can be vital to your success in attracting customers.

It’s important to be literal with your online presence. Remember: customers are unable to physically inspect cars, so they rely on what they see online. Features like a backup camera should be clearly outlined in the description and contain a picture of the backup camera in use. Not every consumer knows all the features of a car, which makes it more important to be diligent and literal in all your vehicle postings.

3. Don’t Give Up on Your Online Marketing Strategies

Although foot traffic to your dealership is declining, car listing sites are reporting increasing web traffic to their sites. This is likely because people are spending more time on their phones and computers as they self-quarantine. Nonetheless, potential customers are still showing interest. Even if they don’t buy today, it’s important to build a pipeline for when the dust settles.

4. Create an Intuitive Online Experience

Since potential car buyers are spending more time online, provide them a better online experience by giving them the power to desk their own deals. A free listing site like Carzing.com can help with this. It’s no different than your normal car listing site, but it allows customers to pre-qualify for cars without impacting their credit score. In other words, it’s like taking their FICO score from Creditkarma.com and building a real time deal approved by a top tier bank, Westlake Financial. This allows customers to play with their own approval rates to see what vehicles they are approved for. The same thing can be added to a dealer’s website with a product called Deal Driver. Ultimately, it allows customers to engage with a website and negotiate with themselves rather than haggling the dealer. Relinquishing some of that power to the customer could be critical in inviting customers to your online showroom.

5. Maintain Communication with Your Customers

This pandemic reminded me of how many email subscriptions I have with companies. Although all the COVID-19 emails felt cliché, it is important for businesses to hold themselves accountable to the betterment of their community. Accommodate to your customers by offering them a delivery service to test drive or purchase the vehicle. However, you must communicate that to them. Ensure you have a CRM that allows you to do text and/or email campaigns to check in on customer’s well-being and present them with alternatives to conducting business.

6. Remote Desking Experience

The best practice in keeping social distance is to do everything remotely. This means spend more time on the phone with customers and work the deal while they are on the line. If they are not ready to buy yet, offer a service to deliver cars to them to test drive without obligations. This limits the engagement of physical contact, but still allows your dealership to sell cars in a responsible way.

Once the customer is ready to purchase the vehicle, use a software that allows you to do the sales/financing process remotely. With DealerCenter, you can desk deals without the customer in front of you. Once ready to see financing options, you can simply text or email them the credit application and finish the deal with all the finance companies you work with.

7. Stay Positive, Show Your Community You Are Thriving

Finally, do not fret! Stay positive about your outlook of the economy. Engage on social media that you are thriving. So much of the media has sensationalized this pandemic that it has diminished consumer confidence. If you stay optimistic and share your positive outlook, it transcends to the community to support businesses and creates a different narrative on the virus. So, don’t be afraid to persevere because this is temporary and your biggest months are coming.

March 24, 2020 | Alex Resurreccion