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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way most of us do business, perhaps forever. Here are some tips on how to run a used car dealership during the global crisis.
Even if you’ve been in the auto industry for a long time, today’s customer interactions look a lot different than they ever have before. In a world still grappling with a pandemic, much of what you may know about how to run a used car dealership has changed dramatically. Fewer customers are coming onto the lot. People are more concerned than ever before about cleanliness and protection against the virus, and the economy is as disrupted as it’s ever been.
There’s good news, though. According to The Wall Street Journal, used car sales in June exceeded pre-pandemic forecasts by 17% after dropping sharply (like most types of sales) in the first two months of the shutdown. That means that there’s not only demand for used car sales, but also that used car dealers have learned a thing or two about how to run a used car dealership even in this uncertain and scary time.
Essential tips for changing your business and learning how to run a used car dealership in a brand new way
New approaches to keeping things clean
COVID-19 has rewritten the rules for how to run a used car dealership, and the first changes need to happen before a customer even gets in touch, let alone comes into the store.
Most states have their guidelines on keeping workplaces safe, and nearly all of them include increased cleaning practices. If you had your shop cleaned once a day before, consider upping that to twice or even three times, depending on how busy you are. Have your cleaning staff use EPA-approved disinfectants proven to be more effective against COVID-19 than traditional cleaners. Make sure that cleaners wear masks and gloves to help keep them safe as well as prevent any potential viral spread, and you’ll want your salespeople to wear masks, too. You may even think about regular testing for on-premises staff, whether they are custodial professionals, salespeople, or otherwise.
While it’s up to each individual business to determine their best practices for operating during the pandemic, we strongly encourage you to check your state-specific requirements, and always err on the side of caution to protect your employees and your customers.
Embrace online sales
An April 2020 study determined that 16% of consumers in the US say they’d be more likely to consider purchasing a vehicle during the pandemic if the process could be entirely online. Another report suggested that the percentage of those willing to buy a car online has doubled since April. As such, anyone thinking about how to run a used car dealership these days can’t ignore online sales.
Using digital technology, many used car dealers have facilitated everything from virtual walkthroughs to contactless test drives, home delivery, and even signing paperwork remotely (though some states still require signatures on-premises at a dealership).
While most consumers likely still prefer the in-person experience, there’s ongoing speculation that used auto sales online will continue to gain popularity even after we get COVID-19 under control. It may be useful, then, to invest in online sales technology as part of your business playbook even after the pandemic.
Turn to CRMs for help
If you haven’t started using customer relationship management (CRM) software yet, now is the perfect time. As part of your effort to enhance online sales, an auto dealer CRM like AutoRaptor can give you a whole new outlook on how to run a used car dealership. This technology allows you to interact with customers remotely, while also helping you to keep tabs on their evolving needs, any COVID-related concerns they may have, and any new solutions you may be able to provide for them.
One of the best parts of a CRM is that you can run reports to help you understand which areas of your business are most successful and which ones might need more attention. You’ll be able to see for yourself if the changes you’ve made to your dealership have had an impact, good or bad, and from there, you can better strategize which steps to take next.
Adapt to the customer
Perhaps most important—though perhaps a bit broad—thing to know about how to run a used car dealership during a pandemic is to be flexible and adapt to the marketplace. If people want virtual sales, give it to them. Contactless delivery? Done. Face masks and hand sanitizers in the showroom? Absolutely. Do regular research. Talk to friends. Ask yourself what you would want as a used car consumer in a pandemic world. The more you’re able to pivot your business to the ever-changing world we’re in right now, the more success you’ll have, no matter how you choose to manage your dealership.
That’s not just smart for selling cars during a pandemic, it’s a good approach to used car sales anytime.
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