COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the automotive industry with both used and new car sales down more than 50% year-over-year according to research by COX. The normal ways of doing business have been turned upside down, and even with the end of lockdowns in sight it has become clear that many of the changes may be here to stay.
These long-term changes present great opportunities for agile, tech-first players in the market, from individual dealers to major platforms alike. Here are some tips on how to best adapt to a post-COVID-19 world and sell more cars.
Optimizing for user mobile experience
The effects of COVID-19 closures have accelerated the shift in device usage from desktop to mobile - and car shopping is no exception. 86% of car shoppers conduct research online before visiting a dealership, and according to Google the majority of this search traffic comes from mobile devices. The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have no doubt led these numbers to increase even further.
A study commissioned by Facebook also found that mobile users are likely to follow up with a high value action when visiting a car dealership’s website. These are the top reasons why mobile-first users are visiting car websites:
- 44% want to reach out to a dealership or salesperson
- 38% want to schedule a test drive
- 34% are looking for deals and promotions
When car buyers were asked which platforms they would use in the future to research, 58% of mobile-first users said they plan to use only mobile. And 62% of mobile-first users said they would be willing to complete the entire vehicle purchase process online if the option was available.
Expanding new distribution channels
The demand for vehicle purchases is expected to rebound rather quickly. Buyers are not delaying their purchases indefinitely and are poised to take action once reopenings begin. A recent study by Autotrader shows that 46% of potential automotive buyers are only planning to delay their purchase for 60 days or less, with another 41% planning to delay for just 3-6 months. What’s more, half of these would-be buyers are willing to accelerate their purchase timeline if they are offered a great deal.
This is an opportunity for dealers with the biggest digital presence to outperform their competitors. And dealerships and marketplaces should double down on their online distribution channels and channel partnerships to get ready for a surge of buyers from pent-up demand.
Car dealers and sellers who plan ahead and create a marketing strategy will be rewarded with increased sales after pandemic-related closures are over.
Making online-only purchases seamless
The economic impact of COVID-19 is going to accelerate some long-term trends which will persist long after the health crisis is over. The proliferation of online-only vehicle purchases is one of these trends.
Carvana has pioneered this model in recent years and many car sellers are paying attention to their comparative success during COVID-19 closures. Google search volume for keywords such as “Carvana” and “buy a car online” have increased since the start of COVID-19. This trend will only continue to grow, creating opportunities for other marketplaces to earn a share of the pie.
With China’s COVID-19 outbreak occurring a few months ahead of the United States, Chinese consumer behavior provides insight into what will likely happen to the American automotive industry. Research by tech consultant WAYS found that a third of new car purchases in Q1 of 2020 were made online, up 25% from 2019. This same trend is also likely to apply to the used car market.
Focusing on high-quality showmanship and visuals
The look of a vehicle is the strongest factor that attracts car buyers’ attention. And research shows that vehicle images have become even more important to consumers since COVID-19, with 67% of buyers citing the look of the vehicle as what “caught their eye” when viewing car advertisements.
Buyers want two things when it comes to car photography:
- More photos: A quick dozen snaps of the car is not enough to satisfy consumers anymore. Research by Snappr found that a whopping 75 photos is closer to the desired amount, which includes interior shots and close ups of the front and back. In the past, dealers have been hesitant to take close-up pictures which could show imperfections or signs of wear. But for today’s buyer, transparency and honest detailed photography actually creates trust.
- Higher quality photos: Amateur iPhone photos will no longer make the cut in the automotive market. Users are demanding high-quality professional photos if they are going to seriously consider buying a car entirely online. The goal is no longer to make the sale once the buyer sees the car in person, but to make the entire purchasing experience online which requires high-quality professional photos. Sellers will need to display the best possible photos for all of their vehicles if they want to have any shot at competing online.
Snappr surveyed used car buyers online and found that being able to view photos of used cars was 3 times more useful than reading seller descriptions and 4.2 times more important than viewing accident records.
Snappr is the largest on-demand automotive photography solution in the United States, with professional photographers available in hundreds of markets across the country. Dealerships and other car buying platforms can expect the use of professional photography to bring a sizable return on investment by affecting both sale price and inventory turnover.
With years of experience working with the nation’s largest automotive groups, dealers and marketplaces, Snappr is the ideal trusted partner for sellers of all sizes wishing to capitalize on the opportunities of a post-pandemic world.