The pandemic of 2020 took the idea of change and made it a reality. Massive state-mandated shutdowns disrupted businesses large and small, with those dependent on face-to-face transactions – such as auto dealerships – being especially hard-hit.
Dealerships that were already preparing for a shift to an online future only had to take small steps to adapt; others had to start from zero. The most resourceful dealers led the way with innovative ways of keeping their businesses open. As restrictions were eased, however, some dealers went right back to their comfort zones – and therein lies the challenge.
Everyone predicted a digital future. No one thought it would come so soon.
The concept of selling vehicles remotely has been gaining momentum over the past few years. There was interest in pursuing the possibilities, but no real urgency in creating a universal solution. The pandemic changed that dynamic. Suddenly, it’s moved from the back of the 2021 planning calendar to the front.
The risk of going back to the old normal in a new normal world.
Now that consumers have had a taste of the no-hassle convenience of the new normal, they’re not about to relinquish their position in the proverbial “driver’s seat.” What was once viewed as special is now becoming expected. The consequences of not continuing the best practices learned during the pandemic may be sobering: if you don’t offer the dealership/customer relationship people have now become accustomed to, they’ll go somewhere else.
Most dealerships proved they could make the future work.
Dealers who have had the most success during the pandemic embraced online everything – from shopping inquiries to digital vehicle presentations and more – and they didn’t stop on the sales floor. They carried over the touchless approach they were using in the front of the store to the back, catering to their service and parts customers in ways that, just a few short months ago, would have been thought too costly and ambitious.
With customers restricted to shelter-in-place orders, a new dealer/customer dynamic arose virtually overnight. Any number of dealerships had their people step up, building relationships with customers that – if nurtured – have the promise to flourish.
Going successfully forward is a matter of desire and discipline.
Although the pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry, it also provided dealers with the equivalent of a real-life test market for what could work in the future. Lessons were learned in real time, with actual customers and staff. Dealers weren’t being asked to try a best practice method from a market far removed from their own. They were creating best practices on the fly. Changes implemented in the spring produced record results for a number of dealerships. So what now?
The new challenge isn’t another pandemic. It’s deciding what to do when choice comes down to desire and discipline rather than necessity. How are you going to meet the customer’s expectations and optimize your business moving forward?
The good news: It’s not “all or nothing” when it comes to incorporating new ways of doing business. You can merge former best practices with lessons learned for a better future – and you don’t have to do it alone. You just have to want to do it.
For more information on how to take advantage of the topics discussed in this article, please contact your local Account Executive or use the button above to locate a contact in your area.
Ally Intelligence is built on a century of automotive experience, and powered by the leading digital finance innovator. With penetrating insights into your entire dealership, we help discover revenue opportunities, improve CSI and optimize operations in multiple departments of your store. It’s a platform for success designed to move you aggressively into the future of automotive retail.