How The Pandemic Has Changed Consumer Behaviour For Good

Published: November 2021

Back in 2019, we looked at the various touchpoints between businesses and consumers to explore how social media, email and SMS communications could blend to drive a multi-step contact strategy for dealerships.

We saw the typical customer journey included interactions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter alongside the data-driven contact plans using email and SMS.

During the pandemic, the importance of these multi-step, digital contact plans was realised by those dealerships who had adopted them already. Now, in 2021 and beyond, these plans are essential to keep dealerships in contact with customers.

Is Time On Your Side?

Pre-pandemic, there were 16 days, on average, after a customer made a full-on enquiry to find the right car at the right deal and get the order signed. Now, from research we commissioned last October, it’s clear that more of the purchase funnel will take place online with the physical interaction taking place much closer to the final transaction.

Of those intending to purchase another car, 46% agree that they are now less likely to visit a car dealership in person when researching a purchase because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Even those customers who do want to come to a dealership must make appointments and follow Covid-secure guidance. The age of the “walk-in” seems to be over!

During the lockdowns, with the government advising against using public transport and being in enclosed spaces with other people, the importance of a car – or motorbike – as a means of personal transport, and therefore away from infection risks from other people, has seen the abrupt halt of prior trends reducing car ownership in favour of alternatives.

More people than ever are looking at automotive content online, which led to used car values hitting their highest levels on record as many non-car owners re-considered their options

In 2021 the contact cycle has changed, with the enquiry coming much later in the process. Because of this, businesses must amend their contact process, which requires new touchpoints.

There are now only 6 days between enquiry and order, meaning the pre-enquiry phase is more crucial than ever, as is the timely response and follow up of enquiries that can’t transact immediately.

Staying In Touch

The touchpoints of the customer journey are now different due to the amount of time consumers have spent online during lockdowns, adapting to carrying out much more research virtually when it wasn’t possible to physically visit dealerships.

Businesses know when their customers bought a car last and can have a pretty good go at understanding when they may want to change. They know you, trust you and will engage with you if you make contact.

However, managing enquiries quickly and efficiently is more vital than ever, as customers expect timely responses and updates.

In fact, results from our consumer survey reveal that if a customer contacted a car dealer to make a sales enquiry about a new or used car and that dealer failed to respond, 43% would be most likely to approach a different dealership which sells vehicles from the same brand.

This all seems obvious – why should a consumer stick with the retailer who doesn’t respond? Yet day after day, Marketing Delivery see replies to follow up emails where the customer hasn’t been replied to.

Furthermore, if a customer contacted a car dealership about a car they had seen advertised, 59% would be likely to stay in touch with that dealer if they received email alerts when vehicles of a similar specification became available

As a manual job for a sales team to keep track of these changes and keep their customers informed, this varies from being difficult to impossible. Thankfully, using automated tech, it becomes something that keeps every open lead warm. Plus, consumers like it! Despite fears of the ‘big-brother society’, we see plenty of engagement with consumers who see dealer content on their feed or inbox.

Getting Social

On social media, the ability to include videos, stock, buttons and links keeps audiences engaged and interacting with Ads across Facebook, Instagram and their wider Audience Network during the discovery and consideration phases.

Furthermore, Facebook’s AI will enable dealers to find valuable in-market customers for New Car Sales and Aftersales.

Different formats, including Instant Experiences and Carousels, allow for key stock information, such as price and description to be displayed, and each available vehicle can either link off to your website vehicle details page or an On-Facebook details page with a lead capture form or Messenger integration.

Lead Gen ads keep the customer in the trusted environment of Facebook, enabling them to enquire directly to the dealership without having to leave and go to another website. With Marketing Delivery, these leads can then come directly to the sales team as email alerts or be dropped into a lead management system such as our LeadBox platform.

Like our Stock Alerts eCRM Solution, with Automotive Inventory Ads (AIA), Facebook provides the tools for businesses to list their Stock Feeds as Catalogues, and Instagram too. We can then utilise a range of audiences, from existing customer data to website traffic or conquest datasets, to increase the reach and exposure of available car stock.

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