Do you remember the feeling you had as we entered the year of 2020? Early that year the economy was BOOMING! Inflation was non-existent, the stock market was roaring, jobs were plentiful and there were people willing to fill them. Cars were selling. Then, Covid hit.
The automotive industry fared better than most experts predicted. That in no way minimizes the death and destruction the virus caused. To date, there have been over 33 million recorded cases and more than 600,000 deaths nationwide. Covid was no joke. The shutdown forced everyone to stay home, take time off from work, find new ways to manage the kids, and cancel all travel plans for an undetermined amount of time. It is true the pandemic made selling cars more of a challenge than ever before. It forced car dealers all across the nation to do one of two things. Either they bunkered down, shuttered the doors, and waited for it to be over, OR they zigged when everyone else was zagging!
JTZ Enterprise has serviced Independent Dealers with their Internet Advertising needs for more than 26 years. We have hundreds of car dealers all across the nation for whom we host websites, manage their data feed needs, and so much more. By the middle of 2020, we could look at a client’s website statistics and determine whether they hunkered down or sprang into action.
All dealership Website Traffic reports show website visits drastically reduced in the month of February. It was then that Doctor Fauci came on to the scene, schools, airports, and businesses were shutting down, and it was becoming clear that the curve was not going to get flattened overnight. That is when the two dealer groups formed. Dealerships that saw this as a time to pull back liquidated what they had in stock, stopped buying vehicles, and may have even sent staff home. The other group of dealers saw vehicle costs dropping and said, “Heck, let’s buy more!” and they did. The cautious group of dealers saw further website traffic decreases in March and the declines did not truly level off until April or May. The Risk Takers saw their traffic losses level off in one month and many even saw a rebound back to pre-pandemic levels by June! The first group of dealers saw stagnant traffic throughout the rest of 2020 while the Risk Takers saw gains in traffic starting late in the third quarter.
Why did this difference in reaction affect web traffic? It boiled down to inventory! By mid-April, the Federal Government pumped out more than $2 trillion in stimulus money to people who still weren’t going to restaurants, movies, work or school. In short, they had nothing to spend their money on so car buying seemed logical. One thing Covid did to the auto buying process was accelerate the rate at which Americans purchased vehicles online. The dealerships that continued buying inventory and honed their online presence saw the greatest amount of sales, period. Online buying was already growing before the virus took hold, but when people were given extra spending money but still not allowed to get out of the house, they found other ways to shop for everything including new and used vehicles. Websites that had extra features such as Save/Compare, Buy Now, Loan and Fuel Calculators, and integrations with Facebook Messenger saw greater conversions because they allowed the consumer to perform more of the Buying Process from their living room getting them past the decision to buy before they ever made it to the dealership. Dealers that went the extra step by providing Home Delivery saw even more shoppers converted into buyers.
While this pandemic is winding down, none of us know what the future holds. The fact is in order to weather the next storm, we all should take the time to review our online presence, improve our online shopping experiences, and generally get ready for the New Generation of Car Buyers, the one willing to Click To Buy their next vehicle!
By John Summer, JTZ Enterprise, LLC