COMMENTARY: Marketing shortcuts — How dealers can be reopening-ready


Restrictions are lifting and losses are declining, but the post-COVID19 pent-up demand has not yet fully been captured by the auto retail industry.

To capitalize on this demand, dealers need to market themselves according to the shopper expectations established as our “new normal.”

Luckily, there are a few strategic measures dealers can take to put themselves and their customers in the best position to do business in a safe and efficient way.

The following tips are informed by a recent COVID-19 Digital Shopping Study from Cox Automotive, to help give dealers confidence during uncertain times. 

Market for the moment

Forty-eight percent of shoppers delaying their vehicle purchase will be ready to transact within a month of restrictions lifting. This means many are shopping as we speak.

Of those shoppers, 52% are still very concerned about COVID-19, so it’s imperative that dealers are communicating in real-time via digital channels — especially their websites — about what their business is doing to keep their customers safe when doors are allowed to reopen. 

If dealers are offering sanitation procedures, enforcing social distancing protocols, offering text, email and chat communication options and moving purchasing steps online, they should let their customers know, featuring it front and center on their website.

Practice proactivity where you can

Starting to see a decline in COVID-19 cases and government restrictions lifting are among the top triggers for accelerating vehicle purchases.

While dealers can’t control those factors, they can control another top trigger — a deal or incentive buyers can’t refuse. This is where being proactive comes in. 

Dealerships should focus on using their website to highlight deals and answer the common questions from consumers like, “Is the dealership open? Are there modified hours?”

Or “How much of the purchase process can I complete online?” This can be done through on-site creative and content, including slides, banners, and landing pages during these times and beyond. 

The at-home experience is here to stay 

As it turns out, people really like the ability to complete a car purchase from the comfort of their own home — and there’s a good chance this will stay the case even when they don’t have to. 

In fact, 62% of consumers state they are now more likely to complete steps of the car buying purchase online than ever before. To accommodate this growing demand, dealers need to ramp up their digital capabilities with video chat options, ultra-transparent deal building guides and screen sharing options with sales associates that mimic what it would be like to sit in the dealership together. 

The bottom line is, that with more potential customers at home and online, dealers need to go the extra mile to reach and market to them — and yes, this might actually mean door-to-door service. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced positive change and modernization for many dealerships, that in the long-run, will allow them not only to reimagine how they do business, but to demonstrate how successful they can be with new marketing and sales techniques that benefit both their customers and their businesses. 

Erica Danford is vice president of managed services at

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