It’s no secret to anyone that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on every aspect of our lives, including business. Though many states have reopened, the novel coronavirus is still at large, which means that you need to readjust the way you conduct your business (if you haven’t already) to stay safe and profitable during this time.
Here are some things you should be doing to maximize your dealership effectiveness:
1. Invest in Your Online Presence & Sell Remotely
Even before the pandemic, consumers have been leaning more and more toward buying online. In fact, according to Mintel, 33% of Americans shop online at least once per week, while 69% shop online at least monthly. The pandemic has since exacerbated the situation, with 88% of American consumers saying COVID-19 has impacted their shopping habits.
This means you need to make full use of your dealership e-commerce presence. Here are some steps you can take:
- Start with your website. Think of your website as the consumer’s window into your operations. What do they see? Do they see your part and unit stock information, including availability (hopefully by location)? Do they see accurate information on your service? In general, how much can a customer learn from your website before doing business with you? According to Thinkwithgoogle, about 63% of shopping occasions start online, meaning that the first time most customers will learn about you is through your website.
- Use third-party websites. While your website is a great way to promote yourself to those who are already familiar with your brand, don’t stop there. Create an account on websites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and OfferUp, so more buyers are aware of you and your stock, encouraging them to buy from you and you alone.
- Set up pickup and delivery. Once you have a website and social media accounts in place, use them to invite your customers to purchase your products online and pick them up at the store. It’s also a good time to offer delivery. You can rely on a third party, like the postal service, or hire your own delivery team that can deliver within your locality.
2. Set up Remote Customer Communications
The pandemic has created a lot of confusion among consumers. Who’s open? Have the hours of operation changed? How many people are allowed inside? Are you offering curbside pickup? Those are just some of the questions your consumers might be asking. Make sure you can answer all of them. The last thing you want is to lose a sale because someone didn’t know you were open.
Your best bet is to connect with your customer via email and text. According to Statista, the percentage of households with a landline telephone in the US fell from 92.7% in 2004 to 41.7% in 2018. Meanwhile, the number of cellphone-only households rose to 54.9% by 2018.
Your current customer database is already likely populated with smartphone numbers and emails. With a proper texting and emailing solution, you can have one person manage multiple communications at once and stay in touch with customers more effectively.
You should also update your website with any relevant information to make sure you reach as many people as possible.
3. Prioritize Customer Health & Safety
Your customers want to be assured that visiting your dealership is safe and convenient. You should know and abide by all relevant area and government ordinances for running a business during the pandemic. In addition, be sure to implement store policies for cleaning and sanitation, such as:
- Reducing total occupancy within your buildings
- Designating one-way aisles with a marker
- Requiring face masks and/or providing masks for in-store use
- Encouraging hand sanitizer use at the entrance and exit
- Installing plexiglass dividers and floor decals for social distancing
Some businesses have additional health and safety measures, such as temperature checking. Whatever safety checks you put in place, be sure to post signs outlining your new store procedures.
4. Protect Your Employees
If your employees are interacting with customers daily, do whatever it takes to protect their health. Begin by checking each employee to see if he or she is fit to come to work. Take their temperature with a touchless thermometer before each shift and ask a few basic health-screening questions about their symptoms. Some companies are using free health screening apps like WeProtectWell to make it easier for employees to submit a pre-work health questionnaire.
Don’t forget about the mental health of your employees either, since they are under immense stress and have been so for months – particularly due to the draining nature of working with customers under the current circumstances. So, check in with them to see how they are feeling and encourage them to do stress-relieving activities such as exercising and socializing with friends.
Bonus Tip: Go Remote
If possible, give certain employees the opportunity to work from home since that can limit their exposure to the virus and reduce the number of staff in your buildings. We’ve recently put together a guide on how you can make this work, so check it out.