As states begin to reopen officially, dealers should see more traffic on the floors and lots – in theory. It’s welcome news to businesses that have been hit with a drop in sales because of the lockdowns.

Coronavirus restrictions may continue to be a challenge for the automotive industry, but there have also been positive benefits. One benefit is that consumers are generally getting better treatment with more consumer-centered marketing plans. Maybe you’ve tailored your plans accordingly and wonder if, now that restrictions are over, you should pivot to what it was like before. Let’s think about how to deal with your options during the reopening.

If Your Current Plan is Working, Stay With it

Before COVID, many consumers would have said that purchasing a car was an old-fashioned and painfully slow process. A recent study from Edmunds said, “33 percent [of car buyers] would rather do their taxes or sit in the middle seat on an airplane” than buy a car from a dealership. The past year of precedent-setting home delivery and consumer-focused processes by some dealers has reset new car buyers’ expectations. It would be challenging and disruptive for you to do things the old way. Also, many would suggest that restrictions may come back if Europe is any indication and cause you to rework things, yet again. The best plan would be to stick with what’s working for you now.

Continue to Increase Your Online Presence

The events of this past year have forced consumers to change how they shop for everything. A study by IZEA on consumers’ intent as restrictions are lifted says that 45% of respondents have permanently changed their shopping habits to online purchasing. For those in the 19-44 age group, the number climbed to 50%. The study observes that consumer purchase habits have been permanently altered. It would seem that online automotive shopping is here to stay.

Consider More Personal Ways of Marketing

The IZEA study also found that 89% of consumers have tried or are willing to try a new brand and product. This was an increase of over 7% from last year. Since consumers are willing to discover new products, providing a two-day test drive experience for non-consideration set consumers may be a good idea. By providing a quick survey after the extended test drive, you can gather information to help you market to a broader audience. The willingness of a consumer to discover new products is an open door for you.

Continue to Be Others Centered

This isn’t a time to rush back into pushing people to a sale. Most people are still trying to recover from the economic damage caused by the lockdowns as they sort out their personal transportation needs. If done incorrectly, the sales process can make customers feel like they’re paying more if they go to the dealership instead of paying online. Customers who aren’t as experienced feel they will end up with more vehicle than they wanted and end paying more for unneeded expensive finance options and add-ons. It’s especially true for people who dislike experiencing patronizing and uncomfortable negotiations. Consider yourself a counselor and advisor who could help make or break your customer’s next three to seven years. This kind of consideration and empathetic insight can go a long way towards increasing your devoted customer base and spread positive word of mouth. People care that you care.

Changes Can Be Positive

It would be easy to think that we’ve moved past turmoil and change in how we market. But history would suggest that there may be more changes on the horizon. However, as many dealers and marketers have shown, positive change can come about from a crisis. Through your willingness to embrace the consumer’s need for an online process, providing a more personalized shopping experience, and having a renewed focus on meeting your market’s true needs, you’ll be better prepared for the future.

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