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From Our Store to Your Door: Home Services Beyond COVID-19

COVID-19 has forced the automotive industry to shift business strategies to meet consumer needs at an unprecedented rate. Seemingly overnight, Americans received shelter-in-place orders and non-essential businesses were mandated to close their doors.

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For dealers, this meant drastic adjustments to their business and marketing plans. A majority of dealers have a basic strategy with one common goal — getting the consumer to the showroom. In our new normal, if shoppers aren’t coming to you, you need to take the dealership to them. There is a three-step process dealers can adopt to help bring the dealership experience directly to a consumer’s front door. These new services will become the foundation to a long-term marketing strategy that will allow for a more efficient sales process for your dealership and the consumer.

With marketing strategies forced to change, dealers quickly had to find ways to virtually communicate with in-market consumers and advertise their inventory online. It’s no secret that video chatting apps, like FaceTime and Zoom, have begun to surge in use and become great options to continue conversations that would normally happen at the dealership.

Recreating the showroom floor experience virtually is a great first step to give associates an opportunity to review the vehicle features, negotiate deal terms and answer outstanding consumer questions like they normally would in-person. Dealers are relying heavily on digital conversation tools and customers are using them now more than ever. In fact, we’ve seen chat and text usages increase over 150% year-over-year.

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For dealers who are new to technology or not confident over the phone or web, this presents a challenge for sales reps that rely on face-to-face interactions. This is a big change in a dealer’s day-to-day process, but it also leads to an opportunity to build a more efficient and effective sales channel.

Video chatting lets dealers create more meaningful connections on a personal level with an interested customer. Many dealers start messaging with a customer and then suggest speaking with them live, developing a relationship and answering questions faster when it is convenient for the consumer. Dealers can show the same level of customer service through video while a shopper is in the comfort of their own home.

You might be hearing the phrase, “From our store to your door!” a bit more these days. Once dealers build a relationship with consumers over the internet, the second step of home services is the test drive. A test drive is one of the most important aspects for a car shopper, but many dread the pressure of a sales rep looking over their shoulder while driving a car for the first time.

Dealers understand consumers prefer test drives without an associate and already allow the consumer to test drive vehicles on their own, but now dealers are willing to safely bring a car to a consumer’s driveway for a test drive. Consumers can use the car a few times to gain a better feel if the vehicles meet their everyday needs. This is a big purchase and dealers can help consumers make sure the purchase is a good fit both inside and out by offering at-home test drives.

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The final step to buying car is always paperwork and vehicle acquisition. Dealers typically work to prepare the car “sale ready” with any last-minute updates or detailing to take place while the customer inks the deal. After spending a day at the dealership negotiating pricing and working with F&I, customers are then asked to wait for the car to be ready to drive off the lot. Dealers can create a better experience for their shoppers by delivering a vehicle directly to the buyer. With shoppers unsure of how they will get the new purchase in their driveway, the flexibility of home delivery helps customers that are looking for that fully contactless transaction. 

While COVID-19 has aided home services popularity, this new, convenient norm will continue beyond this pandemic. Consumers are willing to pay for convenience. More than 11,500 dealers are implementing these services — and more consumers are interested in buying their next vehicle virtually. Website traffic is up by 25% year-over-year and digital retailing deal sends have increase 360%.

Showcasing at-home services on your website will help drive awareness and create a better consumer shopping experience during this time and well into the future.

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