While many industries have been slower to implement operational changes in response to COVID-19, the automotive industry has been quite impressive in their ability to pivot in the face of a crisis. Innovative solutions such as virtual experiences, shopping tools, new price deals, low-to-no APR have all been instrumental incentives in reaching consumers and capturing buyer interest at this time. In the last few months, we’ve seen large brands like Hyundai and Cadillac launch digital showrooms and virtual test drives in order to recreate the car buying experience in the comfort of each consumer’s home. Although demand for these services has already been underway for some time now, COVID-19 quickly accelerated brand adoption toward new tools as a way to provide a seamless automotive shopping experience.
Cleanliness continues to be a top priority as a result of COVID-19, leading to consumers valuing their own personal mode of transportation instead of public transportation and rideshares. In recent insight from Think with Google, data has shown that consumer attitudes toward public transportation, the pandemic, and other factors has led to consumers valuing the safety of using their own car. 93% of consumers stated they are using personal vehicles more, while search interest for whether it’s a good time to buy a car grew more than 9X between January and February and March and April this year. In addition, websites like Autotrader.com and KBB.com have seen large upticks in shopping traffic since the start of the pandemic.
Source: Think With Google
This increased search and buyer interest represents a unique opportunity to drive revenue and reach consumers even in these grim circumstances. Consumers are quickly changing how they shop for cars, and these new consumer behaviors will likely be here to stay long-term. It’s essential that your brand is here for consumers during this time and ensure your business is chosen over the competition. A strong reputation management strategy will help your automotive brand connect with consumers, provide a seamless experience, and ultimately drive customer traffic.
Enabling Brand Discovery at the Start of the Customer Journey
46% of online car shoppers start their initial shopping process by locating a dealer or getting dealer info. It’s vital that all business listings contain accurate information, and photos. The correct business name, address, and phone number isn’t enough – you’ll also want to include your website, categories, hours, and description (otherwise known as NAPWCHD) on these local business listings. Take it a step further by leveraging attributes and any other COVID-19 features to provide consumers with COVID-19 related information. Focus on optimizing your listings across tier 1 directories, as well as popular industry-specific directories.
Another important thing to keep in mind is you want to reach consumers no matter which way they choose to search. One of your biggest selling points right now is in-car voice command, why not leverage this same technology to help your brand get found online? 55% of consumers use voice search to find a local business and over 60% of car buyers that have used voice assistants factor in-car voice assistant availability into purchase decisions. If you want to reach these consumers, you need to optimize your local SEO and VEO strategy. Structuring your website’s SEO to help rank for relevant vehicle listings will help consumers find your dealership through voice search. Your website should have accurate and informative content that fit the context of how voice assistant users are asking for answers. Your content should be able to answer conversational phrases and questions with long-tail keywords, conversational answers, and FAQ pages.
Elevate Your Customer Experience Strategy
Building trust and relationships with your automotive consumers through customer service is one of the most important elements in a strong reputation management strategy. Let consumers know that you’re here for them at this time and are willing to go the extra mile to give them the safest and best experience possible. Increasing your communication, expanding your omnichannel presence, and responding to reviews all play a role in driving customers to your brand over the competition.
Communication typically can start at the dealership level, however, COVID-19 has completely changed that. Limited face-to-face interactions mean that automotive brands will need to shift their communication efforts online. We have already begun to see the effects of this shift from consumers. The volume of online chats and text messages sent to dealerships through shopping websites has increased 150%. Social media posts, email newsletters, website updates, and Google Posts are all great ways to inform consumers of the latest updates and increase consumer engagement. Increasing your communication within these areas will give consumers the confidence of knowing they can rely on you no matter what. Although your automotive brand has decreased in-person interaction, social media platforms are a great way to open up channels of communication and tell your brand’s story in a creative way. Sharing customer testimonials, recreating the in-car experience virtually, implementing customer service chatbots, and giving customers previews into your latest products and services are all ways to continue the conversation and engagement.
Consumers also have new expectations and as a response, your brand should show consumers what new policies, procedures, and experiences you’re implementing to provide a better customer experience in this new normal. With cleanliness, safety, and health top of mind, 64% of consumers are looking to see what sanitization procedures are in place. Don’t forget to always communicate with an authentic and sensitive tone and if possible, let customers know about any additional financing services or policies you’re willing to be more flexible on. Increased communication will help you strengthen your relationships with customers, drive word of mouth traffic, and showcase how committed your brand is to your audience.
Source: Cox Automotive
Another aspect of providing a great customer service experience is continuously monitoring and responding to reviews. 68% of consumers rely on automotive reviews for their purchase decisions. Reviews are a critical factor in helping consumers formulate their car buying experience and purchasing decision. Consumers are taking valuable time out of their day to write reviews. Automotive brands need to ensure that they’re responding and monitoring this valuable customer feedback online. This creates another area of communication for your automotive brand to show customers you care about your response. Here are some specific car review sites that you should continuously monitor in addition to tier 1 directories:
Addressing customer feedback through reviews should be done with an appropriate response and in a timely manner. Leveraging tools like review response templates can help your team create the right response, whether they are negative, positive, or unclear. This will make sure your customers feel heard, and help you rank higher on search engines, directly improving your brand’s online visibility.
An omnichannel presence is part of the seamless shopping experience that consumers are looking for, and with COVID-19, they are the top choice for how consumers are choosing to interact with automotive brands. An expanded omnichannel presence will facilitate a seamless transition for your customers to move through all your digital and physical channels easily. Whether it’s through social media, your website, on the phone, or in-person, each channel should be leveraged to connect with consumers and help them move throughout their shopping experience easily.
18% of auto shoppers stated they’d purchase a vehicle sooner if there was an online purchase option, according to Think with Google. Consumers are looking to services like these below to substitute their in-person dealership experience:
- At-home test drives
- Digital showrooms
- At-home deliveries
- Online purchases
- VR test drives
- Video conferences
Achieving Success in the Automotive Industry
It’s imperative that your brand adopts omnichannel services like these, especially since they play an influential role in guiding a consumer’s purchase decision. Implementing these services and experiences will show that your brand is adaptive to their needs, concerns, and expectations. Reaching purchase-ready consumers in this time requires a strong reputation management strategy that keeps the customer in mind from search to purchase. A seamless auto shopping experience is how your brand can grow your customer base and ensure you’re chosen over your competitors. Automating your local SEO and reputation management strategy will help you optimize your online presence and save time. Whether it’s through review management, social media management, or listings, Chatmeter is here to help take your brand’s automotive presence to the next level. Reach out to our Chatmeter experts to see how we can help your brand.