Necessity is the mother of innovation. It’s the proverbial catchphrase of progress, and in the past 18 months, it’s practically become the new motto of automotive sales. When dealers are put in difficult situations—pandemic-imposed lockdowns, for example—many are forced into survival mode. Yet, a revealing look back at the 2020-2021 year in automotive revealed something fascinating. Many of our thriving dealer partners who embraced the quick shift to digitization (up to 83%) said the changes made now were creating long-lasting, positive results. In other words, the change may have been swift, but there’s simply no going back.
Things may have settled a bit—for the time being—but there’s no telling what’s in store for the future. When the next big digital shift hits hard and fast, will you and your business be ready to lock down and make those difficult decisions once more? Based on the data and feedback from our thriving partners, here are five steps for dealing with the next lockdown market.
1. Go Digital
The move to digital shopping, servicing, and even inventory management is changing. Your dealership depends on data from your DMS to manage everything from payroll to parts inventory to Tech Time. Yet, for many franchise operations, these systems can be disconnected, with multiple data entry steps, slow upload processes, and manual re-entry. While switching over to a new system may seem overwhelming at first, leveraging the assistance of a reliable partner (not just a vendor) to ensure you’re connected goes a long way. Going digital is a no brainer, for your customers at least. But, going at it alone? That might be a bad move.
“A DMS is such a critical part of the dealership, and choosing Dealertrack DMS was a no brainer… But the number one thing for me, hands down, is the fact that Dealertrack DMS comes with a Performance Manager.” — Matt Garner Dealer Principal, Downtown Auto Group
2. Brand Your Digital Presence
As more and more dealerships adopt digital technology, implementing new technology tools alone isn’t enough. You have to find a way to differentiate your offerings from all the rest. Your dealership has its own reputation, identity, and brand. And you’ve worked hard to establish that identity. Therefore, your online presence should also encompass its own name, logo, and visual identity. Remember, your online presence should be grounded in your core brand. But allow your online presence to exist as its own entity by adding the word “Online” or “Direct” after your dealership’s name.
3. Have a Strong Online and Social Media Presence
Leverage your social and online presence to convey closures, updates to holiday hours, and safety regulations. Use your platform to share important information with your consumers, including (and perhaps most importantly) about how they can continue to do business with your dealership. Take time to make sure your Google information has up-to-date store hours and that everything a prospective customer could find online about you matches. Nothing is more frustrating than conflicting customer-facing information about how, when, and where they can contact your dealership.
4. Offer Convenience Services
Lockdowns don’t just impact car sales. The service side of your business needs to make big changes too. When consumers are concerned about health and safety, they place greater value on convenience services like service pick-up and drop-off, rideshare, and loaner vehicles. Think about services that increase value to the customer, and spread the word about your digital service offerings. On the car sales side of things, offer convenience solutions that are on par with your in-store offerings. Home deliveries, for example, should involve a delivery person that can give your customers the same superior vehicle handoff experience they get at the dealership.
5. Facilitate Remote and Online Services
Even during lockdowns, the hiring and onboarding process must go on. It’s possible, even probable, that this process will be accelerated during a lockdown market, which can present problems. With technology that enables you to complete more of the paperwork and onboarding process remotely, however, your employees can hit the ground running and be more productive right out of the gate. This concept also applies to your customers. A DMS that gives your customers more online options, including facilitating faster service pick up and drop off, better communication (texting the status of car while it’s being serviced), and a faster sales process, you can work around restrictions and still give customers the experiences they want.
The necessity of recent lockdowns, and the possibility of future ones, has paved the way for industry innovations that are here to stay. The future is now, and there’s no going back. Top dealers are taking advantage of the “new normal” to implement new technologies and practices that will shape the future of the industry, while seeing real benefits in present day.
To learn more dealership survival tips, including more information about how top dealers are thriving in today’s environment, download our eBook, A Dealer’s Guide to Dealing with (Almost) Everything.