auto brands pivot and prevail over COVID-19

Showrooms have been closed for months. Supply delays from international manufacturers are building up. Domestic assembly interruptions are the new norm. The already struggling auto industry now must deal with a host of COVID-19 side effects. In fact, according to Canalys, auto sales in North America are expected to drop 18% year-over-year as a result of the pandemic. But here are four ways auto brands can pivot and prevail during COVID-19.

1.      Build meaningful messages.

Communicate frequently with your customers. Increase your long-term customer loyalty with timely communication, home delivery options, approachable customer support channels and responsive digital media. For instance, are your service department’s hours of operation updated on your website? Do customers know how to sign up for home pickup and drop-off services? Are you promoting virtual tours of your latest models so customers can get the experience from the comfort of their couch? Also, share your go-to-market strategy now, and highlight all the careful planning you’ve done and health-related precautions you’ve taken to ensure guest wellness and safety as your showrooms reopen. Most importantly, examine all your marketing messages and see which are receiving positive traction within your organic and paid media; then shift your creative to align with what you’re seeing.

2.      Prioritize  Emotional Connections.

Reach out to your customers during this sensitive time to power brand loyalty and longer customer lifetime value. Consider offering financial incentives for medical and first-responder employees or communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Don’t forget; you have technology on your side. Consider enhancing your online and mobile in-app experience so your customers can feel safe engaging with your brand throughout all phases of the pandemic. If you can offer contactless payments options and other contactless functions, such as “message a mechanic,” customers will feel at ease about buying from you. For example, during shelter-in-place periods, many marketers took the car shopping experience online as a way to adapt to the new normal and continue driving sales. Consumers quickly got onboard with online car shopping too! According to CarGurus, one out of four buyers are willing to test drive a car via virtual reality and over half are willing to do financing and price negotiation online instead of in person due to COVID-19.

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3.      Focus on First-Party Data.

Your first-party data is a treasure trove, so put it to good use. Tap your most loyal customers for feedback as you test and streamline new services. Capture contact information from online tools to connect with consumers and encourage foot traffic into your showroom. Modeling audiences and learning more about your consumers’ patterns will help guide your data strategy through COVID-19 and beyond.

4.    Reassess Your Media Strategy.

The auto sales cycle tends to be longer, so going dark on your advertising during COVID-19 could have a lasting negative impact. While you may be reducing budgets overall, be sure to keep feeding the entire funnel so your brand remains top of mind when buyers are ready to purchase. One way to reduce budgets while maintaining share of voice is to reassess your media strategy and look for new digital channels that provide the targeting precision you need at more flexible price points. For example, connected TV and mobile are both strong awareness drivers that offer precise audience targeting. What’s more, with shifts in consumer media habits now, these digital channels are reaching more consumers than ever.

As many states reopen, the auto industry must continue to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape in order to remain successful. But by building meaningful messages, prioritizing emotional connections, focusing on first-party data and continually reassessing your media strategy, auto brands can pivot and prevail over COVID-19. Want more marketing tips, the right guidance and the smart insights to help you engage your target audiences and weather the pandemic well? Check out our free Marketer’s Guide to COVID-19 and COVID-19 digital marketing resources – filled with up-to-the-minute research, trends and advice. Or work with us.