By Chris Madison, Sr. Director of Performance Management at Dealer.com
Consumer behavior is constantly evolving, and the experience of recent months is no exception. If anything, changes in the way automotive consumers act and engage have been pushed into overdrive. After months of enduring a reactionary approach, and doing everything possible to keep business in operation, it’s time for dealers to get out in front.
Push forward into the next phase of this journey, building a plan of action that anticipates the right moves to get ahead and manages change. Here, we’ll explore the need to look for efficiencies, evaluate marketing strategy, and pivot processes to be positioned for growth.
Explore Ways to Improve Efficiency
The rapid implementation of social distancing earlier this year has had an unprecedented impact on dealerships. In order to stay safe and follow public health mandates, fewer people have been entering your dealership doors. This applies to your employees, too. If you have been forced to reduce budgets and are working with fewer employees, you’re not alone: the 2020 Cox Automotive COVID-19 Dealer Impact Study revealed that dealership staffing levels have seen a 54 percent decline.
With fewer team members on hand to assist with reviving sales and service to full speed, the task of managing change may be all the more challenging. Are you prepared to do more with less? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have the tools you need to do your job?
- Are your resources aligned to execute against your strategy?
Assess your tools and technology to make sure you are able to do your job. If you have lost agency assistance or now have gaps in skill on your team, then early identification of these challenges is an important step toward moving forward.
Train and Re-train
When consumer behavior shifts, so too should the mindset of the team that services them. It’s important to offer and promote training for team members, supplying access to critical resources as well as the time needed to absorb the materials.
If the number of employees in your team has decreased, or there are members now wearing different or multiple hats, then the implementation of a training process is especially important. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are all marketing staff fully trained on their newly acquired role or roles?
- What process is in place to support regular training, and when was it last reviewed?
Current circumstances may place more pressure on staff to get up to speed quickly. Since people learn new skills and concepts best at different rates and in different ways, your support can influence how effectively the team moves toward operating cohesively and at full speed.
Obtain Investment Buy-in
Once you have assessed whether you have the tools and technology you need, and if your staff are trained appropriately to use them, prepare to invest in the future. Are your dealership leaders bought into your marketing strategy?
With the changes that have occurred recently in the automotive industry, in your local market, and in your dealership, the marketing strategy and tactics you employed a year or six months ago will not perform the same way today or tomorrow. Influencing the purchase decision requires investment, including technology, processes, and spend. Aim to move your marketing spend into digital channels with rich ROI data so you can quickly and easily adjust it based on what drives leads. Secure buy-in from leadership for the resources you will need to operate going forward.
Adjust Marketing Strategy
While consumer purchase intentions fluctuate from recent events and social distancing, the performance of select forms of marketing have responded in kind. In a recent study by Kantar, 47% of display ads have been paused, cancelled, or pulled.
Now is the time to evaluate if your marketing budget and goals reflect the right mix for today. How do you maintain appeal with your clients and prospects, and ensure you’re top of mind when they’re ready to buy their next vehicle? The answer: shift your mindset from leads to engagement, then ask yourself these questions:
- Are you serving up ads based on where shoppers are currently consuming media?
- Are your dealership’s reviews being closely monitored and managed?
There are two recommended actions for supporting client engagement. First, adjust your content strategy and plan based on the shopper’s shift from search to social interaction. Second and equally important, give priority to your customer reviews, as these act as leading indicators of changed behavior resonance. Reviews are also important to your digital marketing strategy because they drive SEO.
The Way Forward
Change is a certainty – both in the automotive consumer behavior and within your dealership ecosystem. There is an opportunity here. Evaluate the adjustments you’ve had to make and look to the future. Where and what you spend your marketing dollars on was likely impacted, but you have to communicate with consumers and drive leads to contribute to the financial health of your dealership.
Every dealership is different, so your next steps will need to be built to fit your unique situation. Start by looking for efficiencies and opportunities to pivot strategy and processes. Manage all the change and obtain leadership buy-in so you can concentrate on getting results, getting a firm grasp on the wheel to guide your dealership forward.
As always, the Dealer.com team is here to help. We are committed to our dealers, our team members, and our community. Our A-team of industry experts are available to assist you in any way we can. Wishing you all safety and health.