When the pandemic was announced back in March 2020, everyone has the same reaction: hold on to their money, so they have cash when something happens. By April, auto sales slumped by 40%. In May, some said that markets in the US and Europe dropped by almost 85%. It was catastrophic at best and total anarchy at worst. It was the worst in decades and automakers have to scramble to persuade customers that this is the right time to buy their own cars.
Thankfully, the markets seemed to listen. When they realized that public transportation is no longer the safe route, consumers started looking at having their own cars. While they’re not buying high-end models (and most are buying used cars because of the price), the demand found its way back. Automakers finally reopened their plants and made new models. Auto dealerships are back on their feet, albeit a little wobbly.
In the midst of all the uncertainties of the pandemic, auto dealerships and auto manufacturers turned to public relations. They hired PR agencies that crafted strategies to reach out to the market. Proving one’s competency amid the pandemic was a hard task, but reputable PR agencies were able to convince the market that this is the right time for them to invest in a car. Coupled with well-thought marketing schemes, automakers found themselves on the precipice of a long road to recovery.
The Buying Process
Before the pandemic, car buyers follow a single process or pattern. First, they search on the internet for the make and model of the car. Next, they watch videos and read blogs of certain car experts to find out more about the model they are eyeing. Then, they visit the showroom to see the car in person and even take it for a test drive. After some time, the auto sales agent will call the potential buyers and convince them with discounts, freebies, and low interest rates.
That was not possible during the height of the virus outbreak. Car buyers could not see or touch the cars in person. They can’t just troop to the auto dealership and test drive a car. All they have are the photos sent to them by their sales agent. This forced dealers to conduct 100% of their transactions online. With the use of technology, resourcefulness, and innovativeness, many managed to pull through.
Nowadays, people are all about the experience they get from transacting and buying online. Most dealerships have an online presence, but they have to invest in it more during the pandemic. It is not enough to have all the necessary information there about the car. Dealers have to be innovative in trying to persuade their customers to buy right here, right now.
It’s not enough to have a website. You need a mobile app and social media profiles. You need to make use of marketing videos to compel your market to check out your offers. Make sure that you have loads of photos and videos of your car lineup. You can even produce a virtual tour of the showroom to show your customers around. Lastly, actively marketing on social media demands that you continue engagement and monitoring activities. You have to know what people are saying about your company.
Spend on Marketing Schemes
It’s time to go beyond the usual marketing strategies. Auto dealerships have to maximize their marketing schemes and optimize the campaigns and ad spend. The right marketing message will drive additional traffic to their websites. And maybe, one day, once the country reaches herd immunity, people will once more be confident to visit auto showrooms. But for now, auto dealerships need to depend on their marketing messages to show people that despite the challenges of the pandemic, they are ready to provide the products and services consumers need.
Consumer purchasing behavior will change because of the pandemic. Whereas before consumers move seamlessly between online and offline worlds, they must now content themselves in the virtual world. During the height of the pandemic, online sales of new and used cars grew. People started becoming comfortable with the thought of buying a car online. They video-call with the sales agent, go on a virtual tour of the showroom, and some even have a simulated experience of driving a particular car model.
The lengths that automakers have to go to survive the pandemic were unprecedented. They have to be creative in their use of marketing and public relations. They have to leverage technology and other resources, both traditional and modern. But aside from the auto dealerships themselves, consumers also needed to readjust their expectations, accept shortcomings, and adjust their needs to what is available.