NBB Insights:

Best Practices: Be Ready to Re-Open Your Dealership

Person thinking in an auto dealership

In the last several weeks, NBB brokers have talked to hundreds of dealers across the country. We’re in dozens of conversations each day, and we are hearing great examples of innovation and progress in the face of disruption. 

Based on these conversations, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for protecting the value of your dealership during this volatile season. 

1. Stay “Open for Business” in a variety of ways.

Steer clear of using the word “closed” during the pandemic shut-down. It’s important that customers focus on the fact that your dealership is “open for business,” even if it looks different right now. 

2. Stay in the game: keep marketing.

It’s tempting to cut your marketing budget while you’re cutting other expenses, but beware. Marketing is what attracts customers and drives revenue. NBB Senior Vice President, Peter DiPersia, said, “Many dealers have completely cut back on their marketing. But I’ve spoken to a few who reduced their overall marketing budget but they have kept a strong digital presence. For those dealers it has resulted in increased online traffic and subsequent sales.”

3. Continue to refine your online new-vehicle sales and delivery strategy.

Disruption drives change at lightning speeds. What would normally take years of careful thought and planning, is suddenly accomplished almost overnight because circumstances demand it. 

If you’re like most dealers, you’ve accelerated the implementation of online vehicle sales (whether you wanted to or not.) Your mad dash to go digital may have created a system that is functional, but a little rough around the edges. Now that it is up and running, you can improve on it, turning your website into a more valuable member of your sales team. 

4. Find ways to continue your pickup and delivery service.

"Even when businesses are officially allowed to re-open, there will still be plenty of people who want to use the 'store-to-door' vehicle delivery system," says NBB Senior Vice President Jeff Rochwarger. "They might be people who are more at risk, or people who aren't comfortable with shopping in person yet. Keeping that service running is a good way to let your customers know you care about their well-being."

5. Show customers they are safe at your dealership. 

Place highly-visible policy notices throughout your physical dealership and on your digital platforms (social media, website, radio/TV ads, etc) to show your commitment to cleanliness and sanitation. Strict sanitation policies let your customers know, “You’re safe here.” 

6. Consider expanding your product offering to products that decontaminate vehicles.

Thanks to the highly-contagious COVID-19, the American public is hyper-alert to germs. People are more mindful than ever of what they touch, and how safe they feel in different environments. 

Consider adding a vehicle-sanitization product to reassure customers that they are safe in any vehicle purchased from your dealership. You can also add vehicle sanitization as a service for existing customers, or as a way to generate loyalty in future customers who aren’t quite ready to buy a vehicle right now.

7. Be prepared for a possible cycle of closures.

This pandemic-induced shut-down may not be a “one and done” experience. It is possible that we will experience multiple shut-down/reopen cycles in the coming months and years as new outbreaks occur regionally. Start thinking now about what that will mean for your dealership and your employees. What lessons have you learned so far that could trigger refinements in your process in a future round of shut-downs?

8. Stay on Top of the Basics: Parts Inventory, Used Vehicle Inventory Management, Bookkeeping, and Facilities Maintenance

These four areas represent the most common ways dealerships lose value when it comes time to sell. If you will use this period to clean up your parts inventory, used vehicle inventory, your books, and your facilities, you will reap the benefits when you decide to sell.

We would love to talk to you about how you’re faring during this volatile season, and what you are thinking about the future. Our relationships in this industry are what we value most, so if we can be of service, don’t hesitate to reach out.