March is one of the busiest sales months for Jeff Wyler Automotive Family in Milford, Ohio, prompted in part by early tax filers with refunds in hand.
But an escalating outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. — and the resulting mass cancellation of public gatherings, from conventions to classrooms, to slow the spread — has the dealership group looking at ways to attract shoppers who might be ready to buy a car but wary of visiting a showroom.
Foot traffic hadn't slowed as of late last week, said Kevin Frye, marketing director of the 15-store group near Cincinnati. The Jeff Wyler dealerships were still operating on a normal schedule as of midday Tuesday even as some dealerships had started to close because of the outbreak. As an alternative to in-store shopping, Wyler plans to promote its digital retailing platform, Wyler Direct, and home vehicle delivery through a series of videos ranging from 6 seconds to 30 seconds on YouTube and social media.
The services have been offered for years but not widely used, Frye said. Roughly 1 percent to 2 percent of customers opted to have their vehicles delivered to their homes before the outbreak. The group offers delivery within 100 miles of a dealership at no cost within 24 hours of the purchase. That covers several major markets served by Wyler's stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Will the outbreak increase adoption?
"That's what we're going to be watching," Frye said. "If they don't want to come to us, we'll go to them."
Much is still unknown about how the coronavirus outbreak will affect dealerships. But dealerships that have adopted some form of online retailing are already using the tools as a contingency plan at a time when visiting a showroom may be a risky proposition for some consumers.
Has your dealership hired a digital retailing vendor as a result of the virus? If your store has a platform already, have you noticed an uptick in online deals? Help us tell this story: [email protected].
Stay healthy, readers.