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3 Ways to Properly Merchandise Cars in Times of Crisis

Benjamin Franklin on a $100 bill with a face mask against CoV Corona Virus infection.

These are unprecedented times we’re living in. With social distancing in place and concerns over COVID-19 in the news every day, it’s important for automotive dealers to take a unique approach to advertising.

Here are three strategies dealers can focus on to continue attracting customers and driving sales while remaining sensitive in times of crisis.

#1: Promote Programs to Lower Payments

There’s no denying that the coronavirus has impacted the economy and will likely continue to do so. Those with reduced income may be interested in lowering their monthly bills, and lessening the burden of a car payment is one way to do that.

Consider messaging across TV, digital, email, or direct mail that promotes lowering a customer’s payment, even by $20 to $60. This is a win-win situation for the customer and the dealership. The customer saves money, and the dealership makes a sale.

One way to tap into this market more specifically is through equity mail. With an equity campaign, we look at customers who have already built equity in their vehicles. They can then use that equity toward purchasing another vehicle at a lower monthly cost. Through equity mining your customer database, or through mining your service lane via a service drive, you can identify these customers and target them with payment-lowering offers.

#2: Push Massive Manufacturer Programs

To cushion the impact of social distancing and ease customer concerns, several automotive manufacturers have announced assistance programs.

Ford will make up to 3 months of payments for customers purchasing 2019–2020 models, along with an additional 3-month deferment. GM is offering 0% interest for 7 years on select 2019 and 2020 models, along with a 120-day payment deferment. Hyundai will make 6 months of payments for customers who buy or lease before the end of April if they lose their job. Hyundai and Nissan are both offering a 90-day payment deferment for new car purchases.

By incorporating these offers into your dealership’s marketing, you stand to win over customers who may be anxious about buying a car with an uncertain economy. There are also the customers who aren’t as financially anxious but will take the opportunity to get a good deal on a purchase. Either way, these programs are being offered by manufacturers and should be incorporated without a doubt.

#3: Focus on Buying Cars

Another way to break the ice with customers who are hesitant to purchase is with a buy-back program.

Many dealerships already have a program like this in place for increasing used vehicle inventory. Focus your messaging around this service, ensuring customers that the dealership wants to purchase their car even if the customer purchases nothing from the dealership.

Dealers will benefit by creating a touchpoint with wary customers and establishing credibility. The dealership can also market to these customers later on, promoting the strategies and offers outlined above.

Buying vehicles from customers also increases the dealership’s used inventory. Many automotive plants have experienced shutdowns, meaning that new car inventory could become scarcer. This makes stocking up on used cars even more essential to providing the best variety for shoppers.

In summary, dealerships can continue marketing in good conscience with strategies that benefit both the customer and the dealer. The COVID-19 crisis doesn’t represent an ending, but simply an evolution.

Bonus Feature: Our COVID-19 Strategy

As the world grapples with the fallout from the coronavirus, I want to assure our clients that Strong Automotive Merchandising continues to operate at full capacity. We are working with dealers to adjust messaging and strategy to continue driving sales throughout the pandemic. My father Mike and I have seen wars, embargos, and recessions come and go in the company’s 43-year history. Throughout it all, STRONG has taken a proactive and adaptable approach to drive traffic to dealerships day after day. If you have any questions or concerns about your advertising plan, please don’t hesitate to contact my team or me directly.

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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