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Top tips: How car dealers can survive and thrive during the second lockdown

Time 6 months ago

With the second UK coronavirus lockdown continuing to present car dealers with challenges, we asked motor trade suppliers for their top tips on surviving and thriving.

While car dealers are undoubtedly in far better shape to deal with this second lockdown, there’s always an opportunity to learn new ideas and ensure best practice is being achieved. So, here are the key pieces of advice from a selection of suppliers.

Engage with customers on their digital journey

Karen Hilton, chief commercial officer, heycar

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Your customers are still out there, so having staff who are confident at engaging with and nurturing the leads that are coming their way at a time when forecourts are closed to the public is something we have worked on with many of our partner dealers.

It would be easy to keep staff on furlough at this time, but actually having staff in place is vital. If you don’t have people in place to handle inquiries and handle collection and delivery in the new world, you risk missing out on vital business.

Start planning your advertising campaigns now

Simona Staykova, First Response Finance

Think of value-added incentives, or what your unique selling point is, so that you can stand out from your competitors.

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Your social media and website are your shop window: it should be on-brand and up to date, making your business look professional and trustworthy. 

Also, get your working environment ready and spruced up. It is winter and things get grubby easily. Request some new POS material for your dealership.

Take a ‘back-to-basics’ approach

Laura Cannon, co-founder, Cartotrade.com

There’s never been a better time to get it right with the distance selling regulations applying to deals currently.

Ensure you have a fast speed of response for maximum conversion, buy quality stock from reliable sources, spend more time on the prep and don’t deviate too far from what you know works for you and your customers. 

Build trust in your click-and-collect process

Shaun Harris, commercial director, Codeweavers

Be clear what the customer can achieve and keep contact and follow-up standards really high to impress.

Highlight reviews during the lockdown process to demonstrate successes and further build confidence in the experience for the consumer.

Imagery is really key for consumers who cannot physically review before ordering, so audit your imagery to make sure it’s of the highest standard. Also look at video technology if you don’t already use it to create a more personal experience.

Offer an up-to-date digital forecourt

Seán Kemple, managing director, Close Brothers Motor Finance

Digital channels play a vital role in the car-buying process, and this has escalated massively during the pandemic.

Dealers can benefit from this shift. It’s also worth making a member of the team responsible for the social media strategy for the second lockdown, to post consistently and therefore reach a wider audience.

Dealers also need to think about how they will get stock to buyers. This may mean introducing home delivery and live video viewings, or more permanently, setting up click-and-collect approaches and designated collection bays.

Keep your foot to the floor

John Hughes, managing director, Mann Island Finance

Whether it is a full lockdown, or one of the ranges of lockdown levels that are or maybe put in place across the UK, the key tip I can offer to the people leading dealerships is to keep your foot to the floor and lead with an ‘abundance mindset’.

Nothing can outrank a ‘can do’ ethos. If you decide you are going to have the best Q4 ever, qualifying what this means, you will at the very least know that you are doing everything you can to make it possible. You will also emerge into brighter times more strongly.

Don’t be afraid of click-and-collect

Nona Bowkis, solicitor, Lawgistics

Use lockdown to try click-and-collect with a view to offering it to secure a piece of the growing online market.

For anyone doing distance sales, get your paperwork up to scratch to ensure you do distance sales on your terms.

Charge the customer a usage fee after a certain amount of mileage. Some dealers give the customer five miles to test the car and then charge a £1-per-mile fee after that. The big online operators are giving customers 250 miles to test drive, but we say 20 is plenty.

Be proactive with digital

James Tew, CEO, iVendi

The more ‘digital deals’ that dealers send, the more that customers open. This shows how a proactive approach to online activity is providing a valuable new sales channel during difficult trading conditions. 

One of the big trends of the year, as dealers have reacted to the coronavirus crisis, is the way in which they are using online tools available to them in a much more proactive manner.

Offer longer, more comprehensive warranties

Kellie Grocott, RAC director, Assurant

Used car buyers are opting for significantly longer, more comprehensive levels of warranty cover in 2020, new figures released by the RAC Dealer Network indicate.

There is a desire on the part of consumers for better protection against unexpected motoring costs.

Maximise your margins with great stock

James Bush, sales director, Motorway

While showrooms are shut, private buyers are still very willing to buy used cars on click-and-collect or with home delivery, and great private stock is still selling well and fetching a premium.

Savvy dealers are not just surviving but thriving. This is lockdown, not shutdown. 

We advise dealers to buy well to meet demand, don’t overpay for stock now, but most importantly, think ahead. If you can buy amazing cars more cheaply than normal now, do just that.

Treat every inquiry like it is your only inquiry

Lloyd O’Connor, managing partner, Händler Protect

In our humble opinion, with feedback received from some of our 1,000+ monthly active dealers and utilising our own data from ‘Händler Trends’, the second lockdown is not as harsh as the first.

With a record five-month run in used car sales, our dealer partners are still receiving a healthy level of inbound inquiries during November. During any lockdown, the basics apply – treat every inquiry like it is your only inquiry!

Prepare and get business ready

Ian Tallent, marketing manager, WMS Group

It is not only important to make sure the vehicles are prepared correctly but that your business is ready for when lockdown ends.

December/January traditionally see high volumes of used vehicle purchases. So, make sure sales staff are clear on the products available and that they can easily portray the key benefit to the customer.

Get organised and get your team sales-ready. Compare all the leading products available so you know which products are best suited to your needs, as well as your customer needs. Talk to your suppliers – many are launching new product incentives and offerings.

Leave no stone unturned

Liam Quegan, managing director, NextGear Capital

The most important things a dealer can do in the current climate is to be cautious and keep on top of their costs.

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We’ve found that many of our customers are consolidating their businesses to minimise exposure to future challenges that are outside their control.

This means analysing their operations in detail, identifying any potential waste, and focusing on what’s working well. No stone should be left unturned.

Dealers should use this time to look at their buying, collections, preparation and marketing processes to increase efficiency wherever possible. This should help set them up for success in the future.

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