Coronavirus and the Automotive Industry

The Coronavirus is hitting automotive everywhere hard. I don’t need to explain that in any more detail. Multiple countries, businesses, sports, and industries are coming to a screeching halt. Again, obviously this hurts the automotive industry.

While spring is in the air, no question. At the same time, there are concerns about the economic impact, the slowing of materials from around the world and more. It will make people apprehensive around purchasing a new or used vehicle in the short term.

In just one week, life changed dramatically. Travel is now restricted. Schools, gyms, daycares, and major tourist destinations closed. People canceled vacations and were bombarded with messages about social distancing. The stock market crashed and the price of oil dropped to historic lows. We’ve also been told that it will get worse before it gets better. It’s enough to put a scare into most Automotive Dealerships who are wondering how the Coronavirus will affect their sales and the positivity of most buyers about spending money.

This will most likely hit the industry hard for the next few months. There is a chance that it could turn around quickly but as seen now, it could take a while for everything to get back to “normal”. Watch for a slow down in all contact for a while – including phone and internet communication. People are going to focus on staying healthy for the near term.

What Can Automotive Dealers Focus On?

Automotive SEOTo state the obvious, all of this leads to slow walk-in traffic at the dealership. Many people are becoming hesitant to leave their house, let alone enter a dealership and it affects automotive, due to the coronavirus. For those that do in fact enter the dealership – for sales or service – be sure to provide hand sanitizer, freshwater and make them comfortable. At a time like this, it’s the little things that count.

People are beginning to avoid large groups of people, public places and more. But they are monitoring their social media on a regular basis. Most of what they are seeing is based on recent news, rumors and how family, friends are doing overall.

Since there is going to be a downturn in the automotive walk-in traffic to the dealerships, dealers need to focus on what they can control. However, since people will be potentially “working” from home a lot more – eyes will be on the internet. That means dealers need to focus on their sites, social media, email marketing and more.

Continue to Prospect – Most Salespeople will Stop.

They will. They’ll say that this is the worst time to make new contacts because automotive buyers are going to pull their reins in and freeze spending. Some might do that, yet others won’t and may see a great purchasing opportunity. What right do you have to make that decision for them? Make the calls, send emails and videos. Get new relationships established now when budgets are tight to be able to drive sales when the timing is right to make a purchase decision in the near future.

Stay Positive and be Careful of Watching Media

The media and public health officials will play it safe on the side of being overly cautious and proactive with the Coronavirus. That’s a good thing. You are an automotive professionally paid optimist, even if you may not be feeling that way right now. Remember the saying “Fake it until you make it”? Keep the dealership a positive spot, make sure everybody is in the right frame of mind and really limit the media coverage – easier said than done but might be best for a lot of folks.

Go to the Customer

One client that I am working with – Steele Volkswagen – is promoting they will go to the customer. To help with coronavirus concerns and visiting an automotive dealership, promote the fact that you can visit the leads at their home, office or public location. Now one thing that came up was the fact that a lot leads come in on “as is” pieces, so ensure some guidelines are in place to focus on new and select used pieces in inventory. Put a simple form on the web site for them to fill out with name, email, phone, address and vehicle of interest. Promote it on social, email sends and more to gain some leads to visit the customers. This will leads to more opportunities with customers outside the dealership, build trust and help with maintaining a positive environment.

Web Site Search Engine Optimization

Automotive SEOWe all know that most people are home surfin’ the web. While the first week will be show for dealership traffic, people will start thinking about new vehicles. The season is changing and people start getting excited about their next vehicle purchase.

This is a time to ensure that searching is unique and relevant to the market. So, a good time to update content on the dealership web site. Dealers need to build content that will allow Google to index it and highlight the dealership. This entails using Search Engine Optimization for your web site.

Take the time to review your web site, develop content related to vehicles, the market, and the local region. Have content on your web site focused on these subjects and bring organic traffic to your site.

Automotive Social Media Marketing

One thing that lots of folks will be doing is scrolling through social media for the foreseeable future. They will be looking for an escape (from the news or even maybe he SUV), so keeping consistent content on there will be key. While there will need to be some postings about hours, policies and over dealership business, highlight positives as well. A new model in stock? Do a post about it with video, picture, and content – then mention that a visit to the customer can be arranged!

At the same time keep it fun sometimes – for example, Brown’s Volkswagen celebrated Pi Day on March 14th. In the middle of the news about Coronavirus, it was something to break up the day. It got great interaction, engagement, and few laughs in the comments as well!

So the idea is to have some fun, even when things seem a little slow, spice up social media and help people escape once in a while.

Remember, the Coronavirus Situation is Only Temporary

Remember what you felt like two weeks ago before things changed for the Coronavirus shut things down the Automotive Industry? Within time, things will return to normal and your buyers will be back on track just like they were before. Take advantage of this opportunity to adapt to a new environment and embrace it for what it is.  Make a list of all the things you want to get done at work and take personal satisfaction as you cross each one off the list.

 

 


Shawn Ryder

Shawn Ryder

Shawn Ryder has over fifteen years in the automotive industry. Having worked with a training company in the early 2000s for a number of years, focusing on manufacturers and dealer groups. I then transitioned an automated digital marketing company for a couple of years focusing specifically on automotive dealerships. At that point decided best to work in a dealership for real experience, so I worked at a dealership selling vehicles for two years to understand the retail world. For the last three years has worked with dealers on digital marketing and growing traffic, leads and sales for the retail dealership.

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