Three ways to reconnect with your customers online
80% of consumers are prepared to buy a new vehicle online
To adapt effectively, dealerships need to apply old skills in new ways
Build loyalty by offering advice around vehicle maintenance
Put customers’ minds at ease by giving them choice about how to interact with you
Take the opportunity to experiment with new sales and marketing ideas
Underneath all the talk of a new normal, a lot of the old rules still apply. Customers are still more likely to buy from a salesperson they have a good rapport with. They still need to feel supported and reassured, and above all they still want to spend money on new vehicles. It just happens that the best place for dealers to connect with customers is now online.
The prize for those dealerships who conquer the new digital realm? Recent research by Auto Trader suggests as many as 80% of consumers are now open to making their purchase completely online or over the phone. 
In this article, we explore three guiding principles to help you reconnect with your customers online.
1. Act like a friend to drive sales
In uncertain times, consumers increasingly seek out relationships based on trust. With that in mind, not every communication has to be directed towards driving an immediate sale. Instead, nurture your relationships by offering advice and support.
Simple things like providing timely advice and support around MOTs or tasks to keep vehicles in good shape can be an effective way to stay connected and build engagement. Demonstrating you care about your customers, employees and the wider community can create a lasting impression that will pay dividends in the long run.
The market has seen a significant bounce in the short term, but it’s important to avoid throwing all your communications budget into sales. Building a loyal customer base is vital for the long-term health of your business.
2. Safety is your customers’ top priority, make it yours too
Visiting any public space is a potentially stressful situation these days. Buying a big-ticket item like a car, Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW), or leisure vehicle has always caused a degree of anxiety - add the two together and some customers could be put off completely.
Giving your customers options about how to interact with you at every step, from vehicle selection and test drives to finance, will go a long way to addressing this issue. Communicating clearly about on-site safety measures will help reassure customers who want to visit in person. However, offering a range of services which minimise or even eliminate face-to-face contact will be the only way to make the sale, for those who don’t.
‘Mouse to house’ deliveries and click and collect services have proven their worth during lockdown - they will likely continue to be sought after by customers who appreciate increased safety and the added convenience. Some dealerships now offer remote test drives where higher value vehicles are delivered disinfected to a consumer’s home.
If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to look at making some of your ‘value-added’ products such as extended warranties or paint protection available within your digital finance offering. That way customers can spend less time going through the details face-to-face at the dealership.
3. Try things and see what works for you
Customers had clear expectations of sales and marketing pre-lockdown. Chances are your business did too. Now, there’s an opportunity to start afresh and surprise them with ideas and services you might not have considered before. Here are a few you might want to try:
Use regular emails to stay connected. With the situation continuing to change daily, using email to inform, reassure and manage customer expectations regularly will help to build trust and confidence.
Create consumer-focused content. Create videos, articles, and social posts that address important issues and answer topical questions. Get your people out there as much as possible to show the human face of your business.
Give customers a virtual experience. You don’t need an expensive virtual showroom. Arranging digital viewings of vehicles via smartphone can be just as effective and add a personal touch.
Encourage two-way conversations. Live chat is ideal, but prompt responses to enquiries via email and social media can also help build relationships. What’s more, when used effectively, these tools can form part of a fully remote buying process.