The third lockdown feels much different to the first – and not just because we’ve (finally) given up on banana-bread-making! Unlike lockdown 1.0, dealers across the UK are able to sell cars – albeit from a distance.

Following a big shift to digital in 2020, dealers are adapting to this new environment. What’s more – people are willing to buy! Two recent polls found 42.9% (What Car?) and 41% (AutoTrader) of people are now comfortable buying a car online, with the latter rising to 61% once the online sale process is described in detail.

Even if you’re not offering ‘click and collect’, you can take advantage of customers’ readiness to buy online and entice them with enhanced information packs and offer them a way to register their interest in a test drive once lockdown ends!

Check out our top tips for distance selling and supporting customers in a digital environment


1. The devil’s in the detail

Since buyers can’t browse your used cars in person, it’s important to give them as authentic a shopping experience as possible. Providing detailed information, accurate condition reports and high-quality imagery will help you give prospective buyers a good feel for the cars on offer, boosting confidence in their purchase.

Consider using video walkarounds that show your vehicles from all angles, giving your customers a more immersive experience, and helping them picture themselves sitting in the driver’s seat – all from the comfort of their sofa!


2. Be upfront

It’s not just about the vehicle – buyers will also appreciate clear information about your distance-selling service from the outset, so you don’t lose leads before they’ve even reached your digital forecourt.

Be transparent about your returns policy and the safety measures you have in place. We all know the reason that distancing selling has come to the fore is to protect buyers’ and sellers’ safety during the pandemic, but it’s still important to tell your customers what you’re doing to make the handover safe for them.


3. Communication, communication, communication

Make sure buyers can connect with you during lockdown – look at using new integrated communication tools, such as Live Chat, and think about what you could do to inject extra personality into your distance-selling service. Could you run a virtual sales event where you walk through your available used cars, and answer any questions in real time?

What’s more, if you’re receiving positive reviews for your click-and-collect service, shout it from the rooftops, as 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchase decision. Remember – this isn’t just about minimising the risk of returned vehicles – it’s about offering service that keeps your customers coming back when lockdown’s lifted!


4. Right place, right time

So you’ve enhanced your vehicle listings, updated your opening hours and shouted about safety – now what? Help more buyers find you! Search marketing will make sure you’re there when prospective buyers are searching for you, meaning you can influence their car-buying journey early on.

You should also consider maximising your social media, paid ads and ‘offline’ advertising. For example, if your service department is still open, why not advertise your current sales deals there? Advertising locally is especially meaningful at the moment, with the government encouraging us to travel as locally as possible.


5. Source the right stock

Doing the above is all very well, but it’s meaningless if you don’t have the right stock. Quality used car stock is in short supply, as challenges to the new car market are beginning to have an impact on the used market – but demand is still high.

In January, dealers told the Cox Automotive poll that they’d suffered a 10-30% drop in used car sales, versus 70% for new cars. So, with used cars ruling the roost, maximising your digital forecourt has never been more imperative!

With physical auctions currently transacting online, look at digital ways of getting hold of the used car stock you need now, using data to support your gut feeling. At Dealer Auction, we might just be able to help with 4000+ auctions ending daily and Auto Trader’s Retail Rating on all listings support your instincts.


Looking long-term

As we’ve seen, dealers who are concerned about putting all their eggs in the click-and-collect basket needn’t be. While distance selling might not become the ‘new normal’, virtual services will still play a vital role for some time to come!

It’s clear that distance selling isn’t just helping dealerships stay in the game during lockdown 3.0 – it’s very much here to stay. In January, 80% of respondents to a Cox Automotive sentiment survey said that ‘click and collect’ will be a feature of their business beyond COVID-19.

Whether you are able to do ‘click and collect’ or not, it’s important to offer your customers plenty of information and a range of purchase options, so they can pick the most convenient one for them. Distance selling might even allow you to target a bigger buyer base in the future – what do you think?

But back to the “right now”, and with up to 61% of customers now becoming more comfortable with ‘click and collect’ as a new way of buying, let’s go get them!

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