When COVID-19 began, many were hopeful that it would be a blip in our year. Maybe this would last 2 weeks and then would blow over. As we now see how COVID-19 has continued, peaked, gotten better, peaked again (the rollercoaster continues), there is a realization that some changes we made in our dealerships during the first part of the pandemic are not going away.
The question is, how do you effectively get that messaging out to your customers? How do you share the new initiatives you have put in place and the processes that are now there to help them feel safe, secure, and valued as customers?
Here are a few ways to assist with the actual message and process, and then how to best share this information with current and potential customers.
There are serious process changes that have occurred since March that will most likely be part of the way we do business moving forward. Suddenly every dealership realized they must have some form of a digital retailing tool. Dealers saw the need for online functionality at a greater level than ever before. At home test drives, which may have been previously discouraged, are now not only encouraged, but becoming more popular as people want to shop, but are also trying to be socially distant. Pick up and delivery options in service are also no longer a novelty but the norm.
The processes listed below are ones that the majority of dealerships that we consult with implemented in March and are perfecting as the year continues.
Processes that you need to have in place:
- At Home Test Drives
- At Home Delivery
- Digital Retailing
- Online Purchasing Process
- Online payment for service, parts, and accessories
- Pick Up and Drop Off Service Offerings
- Sanitization Process
This new (or not-so-new) process that we have in place will be integral for not only moving forward, but excelling in the second half of 2020. Customers have shown that they want to purchase vehicles. They have stated that they are not as comfortable with mass transit and the ride-share option at the moment. All of this is good for automotive. But they have also stated that they are unsure of how safe they feel in public places. You may have all of the above options available for potential and current customers, but if you are not effectively advertising these and letting the public know, then they may as well not even be in place.
With all of these additions/changes/ enhancing of process, how are you relaying this to consumers? There are a ridiculous number of ways you can communicate with current and potential consumers, and all of these elements are key in letting the public know that you are open, your sanitization process is on point, and that you will meet the customer where they are comfortable.
Your website is your first means of communication with your customer. Use this platform to ensure the customers know how you are open, that you offer specific options, what your service sanitization process is, their waiting options in service, etc… But your website is not your only platform to disseminate information. Here are some quick ways to ensure all that you are doing can be known by the public.
- Website: Use your “Above the Fold” real-estate on your website to highlight your processes and options. Many dealerships have created a slim banner across the top of the site that links to a landing page describing the COVID-19 procedures. Another good use of space is to include banners to your slider (if you have one) that describe your options and offers. All of these options are fairly inexpensive or come with no cost (depending on your website package) and will broadcast to the community what you are doing to keep them safe while helping them purchase the vehicle they need.
- Videos: Videos are such an underused and powerful way to share a message. Have your staff show what is being done in service to sanitize and clean every car. Create a message from the owner highlighting how you are taking steps to keep the customers socially distant by incorporating many steps of the buying process that can be done from home. These DO NOT need to be overproduced. They can be shot with an iPhone, not an expensive camera. And there are always people on staff who enjoy being on camera. Utilize them with these messages.
- Social Media (Paid and Organic): The Harris Poll conducted between late March and early May, found that 51% of US adults were using social media more since the outbreak began. The eyes are definitely here, and what you put as messaging on social determines what the outside public thinks of you. This is where you highlight culture, what your dealership values, and all of the ways you are keeping the public safe in your store and service lane. My suggestion is to continue organic posts highlighting both sales and service, and then put a little social spend behind service.
- Email, Mail Pieces, and Text Blasts: Traditional advertising has not gone away, and this is also a fantastic way to get into customers “inboxes” and mailboxes. If you have any vendor sending out mail on your behalf, you must make sure that they are stating your new procedures for sales and service. If they are not, they are doing you a disservice. Here at BCP, we have adjusted our messaging based on the desire of the dealership, to include all safety precautions on both our service and sales appointment setting emails. If any customers were wary to set an appointment, they could see the process in place by the dealership and feel more confident to set that appointment for either sales or service.
We work with thousands of dealerships all across the country, and we understand that one size does not fit all in the current situation the world is in. Depending on where you are, you could be removed from many of the issues of COVID-19, or you could be right in the middle of it. But what you need to remember is that your website and marketing efforts reach more than just your backyard, and taking a moment to share what you are doing at the store-level could possibly bring in more customers and help sell more cars.
- Review your website and make sure current messaging is reflective of precautions you are taking
- Reach out to all your vendors/partners who are sending out mass messaging to the public. Ensure that they are highlighting those procedures as well
- If you are using an off-site BDC, the live agents must also be aware of your process so that they can share with the customers
- If you are looking for any help with connecting with customers, setting appointments with the right messages at the right time, and ensuring that every single customer is connected with, call us here at BCP. We are the experts at customer engagement.