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17 June

Adaptability in the Auto Industry

In the early days of COVID-19, one of the first business sectors to readily adapt to market changes was the automotive industry. With lockdown and social distancing measures preventing traditional car-buying transactions, a few savvy dealerships took measures into their own hands and got creative with their sales strategy. And their initiatives saw promising results and positive customer response.

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The intersection of creativity and adaptability

Certain auto dealerships have reworked their entire purchasing process to better suit at-home car buyers by rolling out purchase-from-home vehicle programs. Trucks Only is one such dealer. Their customers can shop online and buy a car from the comfort of their couch with convenient options such as; at-home test drives, online financing and trade-in offers and front-door delivery.

Liberty Buick and Liberty GMC, two different stores that we work with, also started mobile test drives, vehicle delivery programs and full online purchase options, and have seen great success. Despite the social restrictions on consumers, their sales numbers have been prominent. In fact, the Liberty Buick store became the #1 Buick Dealer in the nation for the month of April 2020 while the GMC store jumped to #14, the highest they’ve been in the past three years, a very prestigious accomplishment.

By acting fast and adapting creatively, these dealerships not only responded to consumer needs, but also provided an improved overall buying experience for consumers, when compared to traditional dealership transactions. A comfortable car-buying experience where everybody goes home happy is a win-win for all parties involved.

But the real prize will be seen in the long-term benefits. The effects of lockdown on consumer expectations has forced vehicle companies to adjust their business strategies and turn to new technology in order to stay relevant, which will certainly have an effect on auto transactions in the future.

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The digital age of dealerships is on the fast track

The impact of COVID-19 is rapidly shifting traditional car sales toward a more digital business model. Digital business transactions are no longer considered simply a convenience or a perk by today’s shoppers. Digital accessibility is considered an essential operating facet of businesses by modern customers. If they can’t do business with you online, they might not do business with you at all. In fact, 18% of auto shoppers would buy a vehicle more quickly if they could avoid going to a dealership for the purchase.

Dealers have recently updated their websites to help buyers shop models, process transactions and finalize paperwork as creative solutions to today’s evolving marketplace. So far, the most popular digital car-buying options include:

  1. Test drives at home
  2. Streaming auto review videos
  3. Digital showrooms online
  4. Virtual car tours (and test drives)

Along with the digital expanse of vehicle transactions, COVID-19 has also had a radical impact on consumer behavior. And there’s a very good chance these emerging behavioral patterns are here to stay.

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Consumer behavior and preferences that lead the way

Social distancing has had a significant impact on customer behavior and preferences, and consumer needs have shifted in response. The most significant of which include:

  • Personal comfort. Car-buyers are becoming more aware and accustomed to the idea of buying cars online. Customers can test drive a vehicle without even leaving their neighborhood. Curbside car-buying from the convenience and comfort of home.
  • Ease of convenience. All the power and opportunity of the dealership, delivered straight to your front door. Save money. Shop casually. Choose comfortably. And sign happily. There’s no place like home, according to consumer behavior.
  • Future safety. Private vehicle owners will start to use their cars more and more, while those who’ve traditionally used public transportation might now be weighing the safety benefits of owning their own vehicle. In fact, 93% of commuters in the U.S. say they are using personal vehicles more, while 20% of people who don’t own a car say they’re now considering purchasing one.

For future success, companies should start adapting their business models to embrace evolving customer expectations and shopping trends.

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How automotive companies should prepare for the ‘new normal’

To prepare for the future, auto-industry brands should begin adjusting their business and marketing strategies to better suit the next normal. Here are a few things companies can start doing to get started:

  • Continue connecting with consumers through digital channels, and listen to their changing needs. Customer expectations are higher than ever as we enter a new era of personalized customer service, but meeting their needs will cultivate more brand loyalty.
  • Adjust your sales model for future flexibility by diving into digital channels. Consider a flexible plan to be able to pivot your business model and re-prioritize both revenue and marketing goals.
  • Use online tools to generate leads, Online tools like vehicle customization and virtual auto tours can go a long way in bringing in new customers.

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The road ahead could lead to greater opportunities

When companies combine creative business tactics with brand flexibility they often become leaders of inspired innovation. That’s why it’s helpful to take the long view when considering the future. In a post-coronavirus world, where do you want your brand to be and how do you want business to operate?

Don’t be afraid to guide your brand’s future into one of relevance and positive returns by keeping an open mind to new operating options. Today’s market challenges might actually be golden opportunities for the auto industry to evolve and excel. These recent changes didn’t happen overnight. All of these new customer accommodations have been building in popularity over the years. It’s the early adopters and innovators of these new ideas that are best poised to benefit in what is now a rapidly-evolving ecosystem fueled by COVID-19. The innovations that your brand embraces today could be the foundation for market domination tomorrow.

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