In February, we met with dealers and retail technology providers on the floor of the NADA Show in Las Vegas, talking about tech and trends that could help dealerships with online vehicle sales.
A month later, we were working from home, and dealerships' showrooms were shutting down across the country as the U.S. tried to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
COVID-19 touched every aspect of a dealership's operations in 2020, from sales to fixed ops to staffing to profitability. There arguably was no bigger story this year. Here's a recap of key adjustments that were made:
Accelerated digital retailing. The coronavirus is credited with speeding up dealerships' adoption of digital retailing tools and processes. Auto retailers had been slower to implement e-commerce than some other industries, but that shift accelerated as dealers worked to sell cars remotely when they couldn't in person. That led to more online buying and e-signing options.
Mobile service. Dealership service departments rolled out more contactless options, from mobile check-in capabilities to mobile service vans. While auto repair generally was considered an essential service during the spring shutdowns, dealerships expanded their use of pickup and delivery of customers' vehicles, bringing greater convenience at a time when customers were concerned about health and safety.
Digital auctions. In March, the two largest auction companies in the U.S. had to suddenly and completely rely on the digital capabilities they had been gradually introducing. As the virus spread, Cox Automotive's Manheim and KAR Global's ADESA decided over a weekend to halt all physical auctions but keep online marketplaces going. It was months before they invited bidders back to their lanes.
Online retailers went public. A wave of online used-vehicle companies opted to go public in the vein of Carvana, which saw its valuation soar in 2020. Vroom Inc. raised $468 million through its initial public offering in June. Shift Technologies Inc. went public via a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in October. That same month, CarLotz announced it, too, would go public through a reverse merger, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.
This is our last Retail Technology newsletter of 2020. Thanks for following us this year. Have a happy holiday, readers, and we'll see you in January.