As the motor retail sector emerges nervously from lockdown, dealers are reporting that the shift towards a digitally-led sales model for new and used cars is progressing far more quickly than many might have imagined even just a few months ago.
Concerns about COVID-19 are evidently prompting an even greater proportion of consumers to enquire about stock, engage with the dealer, and even transact car purchases online.
In this context the UK Government’s new ‘Plan for Jobs’ strategy, revealed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on July 8, presents a major opportunity for forward-looking car retailers.
Under the new strategy, a new Kickstart Scheme paves the way for dealers to train up the next generation of sales and aftersales staff, where digital skills are placed at the heart of career development strategies.
Employing digital natives for a digital sales process
Okay, so increasing headcount might not be at the forefront of dealer bosses’ minds right now, especially when most are still contemplating when or if to bring staff off furlough. However, the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme is fully subsidised.
The government is funding 100% of the National Minimum Wage for six-month, 25-hours-per-week job placements for 16- to 24-year-olds across the UK.
What’s more, the government is also awarding a £2,000 bonus for each apprentice hired.
This is paid out in addition to the existing £1,000 bonus payment that businesses earn when taking on a 16- to 18-year-old apprentice.
Combined with an additional fund of £111 million, allocated for training, the Plan for Jobs strategy also means car retailers can provide these new apprentices with subsidised, high quality digital-centric training.
The Kickstart Scheme and accompanying investment in traineeships therefore represents a copper-bottomed opportunity for UK car retailers to take digital natives on board as apprentices.
A changing sales process
As well as the general upsurge in volumes of digital enquiries, dealers are contending with expectations that digital enquiries will be responded to in a timely and personalised manner. Dealers also need to be ready to respond – and remain on-brand – across a wide range of channels, including Facebook, SMS, WhatsApp and email.
Realistically, there is a limit to how many apprentices any business can take on to manage the sheer scale of the task. And that task is only getting bigger.
That’s where digital tools come in. They can do much of the heavy lifting for outbound marketing activity. They can drive around-the-clock interaction with a ‘virtual showroom’, as well as helping to collect, cleanse, process and prioritise customer information, and ensure appropriate consents are captured and stored. This maximises the chance of a prospect seeing the right message at the right time.
It is already abundantly clear that dealers will need a combination of tools and digitally adept staff to meet the needs of a challenging, rapidly changing sales environment.
New technologies and the arrival of the Kickstart Scheme help remove the psychological as well as financial barriers for digital-sceptic retailers.
Author: Jeremy Evans, managing director, Marketing Delivery