Now is the time to refresh your sales site
How do you make your dealership stand out and draw buyers in as the date of reopening draws near?
With the roadmap tentatively laid out to a return to some kind of normality, car dealerships across the UK are looking forward to the days when they can reopen their doors and welcome back customers.
But when they do, competition may be fierce and frantic.
After all, while March sales aren’t looking as strong as usual, they’re not as drastic as many in the industry had feared. Customers are getting more and more used to the idea of making large purchases online – and that includes cars.
“Consumer trends are indeed changing and we’ve seen that with a range of disruptive new companies, which are delivering cars directly to people’s doors,” said Car Dealer Magazine CEO James Baggott. “But the lack of test drives at some dealerships, combined with many customers simply wanting to see the new and used cars before they buy them, is holding some people back.”
Lockdown has given us the chance to make sure the site looks as good as it can so we can offer more.
When non-essential retail reopens again on 12 April, as is the projected current timeline, the industry is expecting a wave of pent-up demand to give sales a much-needed boost, especially as economic confidence returns post-lockdown.
According to What Car?, almost 60% of car buyers have decided to change their purchase plans following the government roadmap announcement, with strong pent-up demand that could carry on to ‘at least June’ with 43 per cent looking to buy a new vehicle within three months.
So how do you make your dealership stand out from the crowd and draw buyers in as that date of reopening draws near?
“We’ve given our sites a bit of a spruce up during lockdown,” said Steve Forster, Operations Director at Minstergate in Hessle, East Yorkshire, which holds Hyundai and MG Motor franchises. “With no customers coming through the doors, we’ve been able to get work carried out, rearrange our layout, add an extra franchise and increase the vehicle footprint of our showroom. We’re looking forward to inviting out customers back to see the changes and offer them a wider choice of new and used cars as a result.”
The reopening of dealerships will also feed aftersales opportunities – the chance to sell accessories or paint protection products, which has been much tougher than usual in recent trading conditions.
It’s not just new car dealerships that have seen changes either. Chris Johns, a sales manager at Carworld in Peterborough, a used car site, is of the view that presentation is everything when it comes to getting new customers through the door.
“Just because people are buying used doesn’t mean they accept a budget experience,” he said. “So we make a point of giving them a showroom experience, with clean cars, plenty of indoor viewing space, coffee and tea and a friendly welcome. We think that will be the big difference when we open up again. People expect more, lockdown has given us the chance to make sure the site looks as good as it can so we can offer more.”
“The key to successful automotive retail is to stand out above the rest,” adds Car Dealer’s James Baggott. “The ones that make the biggest effort will get the best reward. Our research always tells us that the customer experience is one of the single biggest factors in converting a sale. Make the experience good for the customer and they’ll want to buy from you.”
Auto Trader, meanwhile, has reported that used car prices were up 6.6 per cent on the same month last year. February was the 11th month of consecutive price growth in the used car market, it said.
What’s more, volumes of buyers on Auto Trader point to growing interest from buyers looking to change their vehicle. Visitor numbers to Auto Trader are up 32.9 per cent on the same (pre-lockdown) period in 2020 with average daily users topping 1.4 million.
“The car sales market is alive and well,” added Baggott. “The key for any dealer now will be to attract that pent-up demand from customers to buy from them and not a rival, and a lot of that is down to their presentation and attitude. After months of uncertainty we’re looking at months of opportunity, and now is the time for dealers to have a clean-up, make their sites and their stock as attractive as they can be and draw those customers in.”
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