In normal times, Steve Zabawa might get requests from maybe seven dealerships in a two-week period to install WebBuy, the digital retailing software he developed and launched at his Montana dealership group in 2017.
These aren't normal times.
Over a roughly two-week period in mid-March, Zabawa — partner at Rimrock Auto Group in Billings, Mont., and a WebBuy co-founder — installation requests came in from 60 dealerships. He said WebBuy has received calls from existing dealership group clients wanting to bring more stores onto the platform, and from others asking for training on a system they installed but hadn't fully used.
I profiled Zabawa in a story last month before the 2020 NADA Show — which seems like ages ago now — about dealership executives who developed their own software to meet a business need.
The deal closing rate on WebBuy started to grow in January as more dealerships began to market the tool, Zabawa said, and continued after a "really good NADA Show." But the coronavirus accelerated the uptick, he said.
This week, I wrote about how COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, seems to be accelerating dealerships' adoption of digital retailing tools, especially in states with stay-at-home orders or mandates that nonessential businesses be closed. That transition has been ongoing for years, but dealerships have made it at different speeds. Dealership leaders I spoke with last week said the steps they're taking now aren't likely to disappear once business returns to normal.
At Rimrock's dealerships, customer traffic is off by at least 25 percent, and maybe as much as a third, compared with a typical March, Zabawa said. But the group is getting more serious, low-funnel leads online.
"The ones that have been coming have been buying," he said.
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