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How car dealers can nurture enquiries as coronavirus takes hold, guest opinion

Jeremy Evans, managing director at Marketing Delivery

As the ‘social distancing’ measures introduced to help limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus start to bite, it is inevitable that those vehicle showroom and workshop facilities that remain fully open will experience a reduction in consumer footfall.

This is obviously a very concerning time for the motor retail trade, though there are measures that can be taken very quickly to mitigate the impact.

Dial up the digital

With self-isolation suddenly becoming a societal norm it is more imperative than ever to maintain digital contact with current and prospective customers.

If you can keep people interested and engaged via email and social channels during this uncertain period, they will be far more likely to return afterwards.

Remember it’s not all about selling. Using digital channels to share updates and ramp up ongoing interaction – such as alerting customers about interrupted showroom and workshop opening hours – will be crucial for safeguarding customer relationships.

Automation is your friend

The conundrum for many dealers is how best to maintain outbound digital contact. After all, if buyers are having to self-isolate, dealership staff will be doing the same.

That’s where automated tools become vital, taking the burden off sales staff by sending personalised communications to qualified prospects at the right time, and directing responses back into the sales funnel.

Ramp up your social

Dealers with a stronger social presence will benefit at a time when house-bound prospective customers are likely to be spending more time browsing social media or online classifieds.

40 million people in the UK already visit Facebook at least once a month, while 80% of those access it more than once a day.

75% of UK Facebook traffic falls during the working week .

Those numbers are only likely to increase during periods of self-isolation.

Facebook’s targeting functionality makes it an ideal platform for lead generation, customer conquest and communication.

Using tools such as our SocialStock product can help dealers automatically maintain an up-to-date Facebook ‘product catalogue’, populated by a stock feed taken directly from their website.

Once this is set up, it’s easy to populate organic and paid-for adverts, and use targeting tools to promote posts to relevant audiences.

Email is still the most reliable channel

Social media is deservedly capturing the attention of many dealers as a useful means of reaching out to consumers.

However, email still has a key role to play, indeed it is the channel most preferred by consumers for hearing from a dealer, both for car sales (47.6%) and service / MOT (48.3%).

By integrating eCRM (electronic customer relationship management) technology into their contact strategy, dealers can reduce the time and labour required to reach out to consumers.

Doing so also meets customer demands for interactions that reflect their needs, interests and prior history with the retailer.

Sales teams can use eCRM tools to keep potential customers engaged and updated with day-to-day stock changes.

Much of the process is automated, issuing tailored email alerts when new stock arrives which matches the initial enquiry, keeping potential customers ‘on the boil’.

SMS can be important too, especially among younger buyers.

Compared to consumers overall, a larger proportion of younger people prefer to hear from a dealer regarding service and MOT work by text – preferred by 14% of under-25s, compared to just 3.7% of those aged over 55.

Author: Jeremy Evans, managing director at Marketing Delivery


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