If your anything like me your sick of hearing about COVID-19 and you may well be rolling your eyes at the prospect of reading yet another COVID-19 themed article....but hear us out - this one is not the normal doom & gloom about the challenges ahead, or espousing any unrealistic expectations that everything is back to normal.
At AutoPlay through our conversations with dealers it's been made clear that a lot of the franchise dealers we work with want to look to the future and move on past what was certainly a difficult time for the automotive industry in NZ. That said something we've heard talking heads rather cynically trot out the old Winston Churchill line that "you should never waste a good crisis".
Whilst a little heartless towards the many people that have lost their livelihoods or struggled over the past 3 months the concept does have merit.
At AutoPlay we were forced to work differently. Like many businesses we had the challenge of maintaining relationships with our customers without being able to do face-to-face contact, and we had to find different ways of communicating with our fellow staff members when we couldn't yell at them from across the office.
For dealerships we've heard a lot of talk of 'right sizing' for the future market - which is entirely valid but not what we want to focus on in this article. During COVID-19 AutoPlay put a lot of effort into shifting our development to what dealers wanted during Level 3 and the early stages of Level 2. Some of these like the Visitor Book were short term ways of addressing specific challenges, whilst others might have ongoing applications well after COVID-19 is firmly in the rear view mirror. So what have we learnt from working with COVID-19? It's time to get out the crystal ball...
Over the shutdown we've seen first hand dealerships embrace Skype/Zoom/Teams as a way to communicate with AutoPlay. Where we previously struggled to get the same level of engagement with dealers and brands over video chat when compared to face-to-face visits, during and post COVID-19 we've managed to run a number of online training sessions. With dealerships we've seen dealers re-engage with video as a communication medium and at a more basic level pay real attention to the information on their website and the way their vehicles are presented online.
+ What will happen in the future?
Many dealers will continue to focus on their online presence more and continue to look at video walk-arounds and recordings as a viable means to connect with their customers.
- What will remain the same?
In NZ in particular there is a large portion of the market that still prefer to deal with people over the phone or face-to-face. Whilst it's possible retail presences will be consolidated its likely the experience of buying a car from a dealership will continue to be a focus for dealers in the next few years at least.
COVID-19 often meant you couldn't be in front of your customer, and when you could you certainly couldn't hand over a shared device to get customers to sign T&C's etc. This forced the hands of many software providers to offer contactless solutions to help support dealerships to continue to sell cars.
+ What will happen in the future?
At AutoPlay we believe on of the stronger learnings from the COVID-19 experience that will stick with dealers in the future is the need to provide customers with alternative ways of connecting with the dealership. This doesn't necessarily mean brand new technology, but rather applying that technology in different ways. At AutoPlay we are working on new ways of prompting Lead, Test Drive, Appraisal and Calendar Bookings to be completed by the customer - be it via web page "plug-ins" or SMS invites. Allowing the customer to complete as much of the process as possible from the comfort of their own home is a win-win for dealers and their customers alike.
- What will remain the same?
The sales process won't change massively in the short term - the road-to-the-sale isn't going anywhere soon. Although the method and location may change, the goal is still to move the customer through the road-to-the-sale process as efficiently as possible whilst ensuring you maintain a positive customer experience throughout the journey.
Making The Most Of What You've Got
We saw first hand that leads dropped off a cliff during COVID-19, and whilst the key KPI's of Leads, Test Drives, Sales and Appraisals have all bounced back to normal (or close to) levels, theres still been an obvious focus from the dealers we talk to on making the most out of the leads you are generating.
+ What will happen in the future?
With sales it's very easy to fall into the allure of targeting the newer leads that have come into the dealership. Lead conversion to sales generally sits between 20% to 30% for the majority of dealers. Coming out of COVID we've seen more emphasis on replying to leads faster, with better quality replies, and working leads more. The feedback right now is that the market is flying high, and whilst it's possible that over the next 6-12 months there could be fewer leads dealerships and brands will demonstrate a renewed emphasis on not only basic lead management principles as a way to leverage the leads they do have, but mining their existing customers, lost leads, end of finance and appraisals as a way to generate more leads rather than waiting for customers to come to them.
- What will remain the same?
I've been told by many salespeople that sales is a numbers game. If you don't have the leads in the funnel you won't have the volume to convert to sales down the track. Dealers will continue to look at ways of generating new leads - whether that's through new brand initiatives, utilizing additional tools and services or branching out how and where they advertise. This is a vital part of keeping a dealership ticking over but will need to be balanced against the need to fully squeeze the existing leads that have already been paid for in time and money.
At AutoPlay we don't know the future....but with over 80% of the franchise dealer market as customers we have a pretty good understanding of the challenges dealers face in the pre-sale space and we are constantly working to improve our products and services to help dealers meet these challenges head on. If you've got any questions about what you could be doing differently in this new reality make sure to reach our to your account manager Norman or Jackie, or zap an email through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As many of you know, AutoPlayAuto.com was launched in July 2019 as a major platform upgrade to a full HTML 5 web application, available for login at https://autoplayauto.com.
The majority of our users have already migrated to AutoPlayAuto.com and we thank you for that. If you are yet to make the move, you will need to ensure that you’re using the new app https://autoplayauto.com on all your devices including desktop PCs, iPads and mobile phones rather than continue to use the old Silverlight app on PC or iOS app on iPads and iPhones. These old apps will no longer be supported from 3rd August 2020. Access to them will be disabled from this time.
If you have the old iOS app installed, please delete it from your device. When using the new application;
AutoPlay have a comprehensive library of support documentation and videos available from the Support portal, accessible at https://support.autoplayauto.com/portal/kb
By accessing AutoPlay from https://autoplayauto.com you will always have the most up to date version of AutoPlay. If you need any extra help, or have questions, please contact AutoPlay via email@example.com
Last month AutoPlay shared some pretty crazy stats showing the increase in Lead, Test Drive and Sales activity from April to May 2020. Given the almost complete shutdown of the market in April it was not surprising to see increases in the volume of Leads, Test Drives and Sales anywhere from 200% to 800%.
This month we are looking at the first 20 days of June vs the first 20 days of May. So far this month June is running fairly close to pre COVID-19 levels. Compared to May, Leads are up 43.0%, Test Drives up 95.7% and Sales up 64.6% MTD.
TOTAL ACTIVITY KPI - June 1st to 20th 2020 (vs May 1st to 20th 2020)
Leads - Up 43.0%
Test Drives - Up 95.7%
Sales - Up 64.6%
Leads from the ‘Brand’ source continue to bounce back at a higher rate than online sources such as 3rd party listing sites and dealer websites which continued to generate low volumes of leads even during the Level 3 & 4 shutdowns. Leads from the ‘Brand’ source increased by 95.3% from the previous period in May, but still account for approximately a third of the number of leads generated by ‘Web Classified’ (up 33.4%) and ‘Web – Dealer’ (up 21.9%) lead sources. Interestingly there is a small trend showing that the types of vehicles being enquired on are trending towards lower price ranges than during the pre COVID-19 period.
TOP 3 SOURCES OF LEADS - June 1st to 20th 2020 (vs May 1st to 20th 2020)
Web - Classified - Up 33.4%
Web - Dealer - Up 21.9%
Brand - Up 95.3%
Test Drives were one of the biggest KPI’s to bounce back in May and June (alongside Appraisals) – increasing by 95.7%. Test Drives from ‘Web – Classified’ sources increased by 60.6% from 1st-20th May vs 1st-20th June, and overtook ‘Web -Dealer’ (up 48.6%) as the top source of test drives for kiwi dealerships. Test Drives attributed to genuine walk-ins are often attributed to the ‘Direct’ source in AutoPlay and this source continued to increase – up 180% from the previous period.
TOP 3 SOURCES OF TEST DRIVES - June 1st to 20th 2020 (vs May 1st to 20th 2020)
Web - Classified - Up 60.6%
Web - Dealer - Up 48.6%
Direct - Up 180%
As with all other metrics Sales continued to bounce back in June with a 64.6% increase in June 1st-20th from the same period in May. Sales attributed to ‘Web – Classified’ sources increased by 42.0%, sales attributed to ‘Web – Classified’ sources increased by 36.7% and sales attributed to ‘Repeat’ customers increased by 62.8%.
TOP 3 SOURCES OF SALES - June 1st to 20th 2020 (vs May 1st to 20th 2020)
Web - Classified - Up 42.0%
Web - Dealer - Up 36.7%
Repeat - Up 62.8%
Overall, we are seeing a strong bounce back in activity across the majority of customers using the AutoPlay Sales Pipeline to manage their leads (approx. 80% of franchise dealership by volume). As we know, the challenge will be to sustain this level of activity in what will surely be a challenging market for the remainder of 2020. Make sure to check back for more regular updates from AutoPlay on pre-sale lead activity throughout NZ.
Launching at the perfect time to help dealers bounce back from COVID-19 restrictions, Autotrader.co.nz have launched their brand new website. Read the full press release below - including a special launch offer for a limited time.
12 months after purchasing the business from Bauer Media, Auto Trader’s new Kiwi owners Richie East and Ross Logue have delivered on their promise to provide a state-of-the-art online experience for buyers and sellers.
“It was important for us not only to include the features our dealers need today but to go above and beyond with tools they will want in the future. We’ll also be adding many more integrations and updates in the coming weeks.” says Ross Logue, Managing Director.
“We are really excited to see our dealers utilise the new features such as videos and 360° photos for virtual tours to boost sales and reach customers in new ways. We have added brand new sections to the site such as our “New Car Showroom”, “Electric & Hybrid” and “Commercial”. All of this is available at no extra cost to our dealers. And for our customers, they can now book test drives and receive valuations on their trade-ins from dealerships all through a simple portal.” continued Mr Logue.
“This is just the beginning of our innovation-lead future at Autotrader.co.nz. We’re excited to continually bring market leading innovations to dealers and Kiwi car buyers.”
The new website soft-launched on the 19th of May with a refreshed logo and brand before a national marketing campaign begins in the weeks and months to follow.
Autotrader.co.nz receives 200,000 unique visitors per month and the new platform has showed very encouraging site statistics so far with time on vehicle page listings doubling immediately.
Auto Trader has been a trusted brand in New Zealand since printing the first edition of the buyer’s guide in 1981. Later in 2005 the first iteration of the website was launched with the mobile site following in 2008. The new website will continue to offer dealers industry leading ROI and trackable results on a new dedicated responsive platform.
When asked about the effect Covid-19 may have on the website and industry, Ross says: “It’s certainly a strange time for the new website to launch, but our lead tracking and analytics have shown the public has been quick to return to their old buying habits at level 3 and 2”.
“Our research shows that buyers are more than ever considering all options when it comes to making a car purchase decision and after extensive analysis, we are confident we have the best buying experience available for Kiwis”
Auto Trader were quick to support all its dealers through the lockdown, offering free advertising in April, 50% off advertising in May, 30% off June, 15% off July, extended payment terms and 50% off upgrade packages.
These discount packages are also available to all Auto Play dealers who are currently not online with Auto Trader. We offer rolling contracts with no long-term commitment required.
AutoPlay can export your data to Autotrader quickly and easily (requires AutoPlay's Data & Web Tool Package). Contact Autotrader on firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
At AutoPlay we are always keen to share new initiatives from other companies in the automotive space. This month we wanted to share some information about Driven Shopper Connect and Concierge service. Check out the full press release below.
As New Zealand moves down the various levels of lockdown many businesses are asking themselves how they can hold on to the lessons learned from being forced into new ways of working.
It’s this adaptability which has been on the minds of many as more retail shopping shifts online and businesses now find themselves with the ability to embrace more flexible working. Many have incorporated a suite of new technology tools into business practices and now an enhanced concierge service being offered by DRIVEN.co.nz means dealers can also innovate the way they operate, expanding the number of shoppers they engage with each day and growing sales in the process.
DRIVEN Shopper Connect is an industry leading innovation which brings dealers knowledge and skills to the party and replicates the forecourt conversation in both a virtual sense and at scale.
“Choice is a great thing and at DRIVEN.co.nz we have over 46,000 vehicles currently available for sale. But we also recognise so much choice can be daunting, especially for time-poor car buyers. Over 160,000* Kiwis head to DRIVEN.co.nz every week looking for advice on their car purchases,” says NZME’s Head of Automotive and DRIVEN Natasha Callister.
For these consumers DRIVEN.co.nz Concierge service offers an easy alternative, assisting buyers by capturing a ‘buying brief’ to establish what they are looking for in their next car purchase.
A summary detailing everything from make, model, budget, colour, finance or trade-in requirements, is then made available to dealers who’ve subscribed to DRIVEN’s “Shopper Connect” platform. Dealers receive an email notification and if they have a vehicle on the yard that matches what the buyer is looking for SUCCESS! They can access the Shopper Connect platform to connect with the buyer. Even if a dealer doesn’t have an exact vehicle, they can contact the shopper and initiate a worthwhile discussion, armed with the knowledge of what their buying brief entails, to potentially sell them a comparable vehicle available on the yard.
“Put simply, DRIVEN Shopper Connect matches buyers in the market right now, with the stock dealers have on hand. It enables dealerships to challenge the traditional model of a showroom or forecourt where every vehicle must be on display. Instead consumers are more open to 360 video viewings and enjoy the convenience of test drives being delivered to their home or work. The opportunity to reduce overheads is there,” said Callister.
“The DRIVEN Shopper Connect initiative is another product from our continuous improvement focus to ensure we grow connections between consumers and our valued commercial partners,” said Callister.
*Nielson online ratings April 2020
For further information please contact:
Cliff Joiner, GM Communications
New Zealand Media and Entertainment
For enquiries on how to access the platform:
Deon Van Elst, Senior Media Specialist
New Zealand Media and Entertainment
+64 27 201 1504, email@example.com
For the last few months we’ve been heavily affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. With lead volumes dropping to a fraction of normal rates we made the decision to take a break from our monthly publication of Lead Source stats for the NZ market.
At the time of writing this article it is now the end of May. Although Lead, Test Drive, Appraisal and Sales volumes are still below what they were in pre-COVID-19 times, we have seen a strong rebound of activity in the last 2 weeks of March to almost pre COVID-19 levels.
April 2020 was completely dead as dealerships were shut down during the Level 4 restrictions. Similarly, the first few weeks of April there was very little activity, with the real activity only commencing on the 28th of April – the first day of Level 3 restrictions. This flurry of activity continued throughout May as dealers found a way to generate leads. As NZ moved into Level 2 on the 14th of March we’ve found Test Drives and Sales have steadily grown.
Overall compared to April the contrast is staggering. Whilst at Level 4 there was almost no activity except limited website leads, May 2020 saw a 285.8% increase in the volume of Leads from the previous month – whilst Test Drives increased by 829.3% and Sales increased by 235.6%.
The top 3 sources of leads was unsurprising as the typical lead sources remained strong and online sources rebounded more quickly. The most common source of leads in May 2020 was ‘Web – Classified’ with 152.1% more leads generated than in April. ‘Web – Dealer’ was the second most common source of leads – increasing by 221.1%. Leads generated by the ‘Brand’ OEM group represented the third most common source of leads in May and increased by 893.8% as Brand Groups lurched back into life.
Test Drives were logically the most impacted by Level 3 & 4 shutdowns as evidenced by the massive increase in Test Drive volume as soon as dealers were able to safely do so. As with Leads, online sources remained strong as dealers converted some of those to Test Drives as soon as they were able. Test Drives from ‘Web – Dealer’ sources increased 664.2% whilst Test Drives from ‘Web – Classified’ sources like Trade Me, Driven and Autotrader increased by 756.3%. Test Drives attributed to ‘Direct’ sources were the third most common source of leads with a sizeable increase of 1187.7% from April to May – reflecting more customers potentially walking in without previously enquiring in late May as confidence in Level 2 restrictions grow.
During the Level 3 & 4 restrictions we still saw Sales being made as many canny operators were able to record forward orders during the shutdown. The top source for sales remains ‘Web – Classified’ sources with 298.9% more sales attributed to these sources in May than April. ‘Web – Dealer’ sales increased by 359.8% and sales to ‘Repeat’ customers increased by 81.2%.
Make sure to check back next month to see the top sources of leads, test drives and sales in June 2020.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation - there is no play book for times like these. At AutoPlay we've offered our dealership customers a fee-free period and we've been heartened to see many of the other companies in the Automotive space in NZ make similar offers. Like AutoPlay the team at Driven.co.nz are committed to helping dealerships make it through this tough time. Below is a short message from the team at Driven NZ regarding their plans for April 2020.
Given the recent developments regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), we at DRIVEN are adapting and reviewing how we can support our dealer network during this tough time. We are committed to working closely with you, to manage what is uncharted territory for us all.
As a result, we will be putting in place a charging holiday for our dealerships on all lead and/or subscription charges from midnight Wednesday 25 March until at least end of April 2020 at which point we will review based on the environment at this date.
Any leads received by dealerships during this time along with any monthly subscription charges for April will be completely free of charge. There is no need to activate this, the charging holiday will be automatically applied to all DRIVEN.co.nz lead generation customers.
Rest assured we will be doing everything we can to support the local automotive industry over the coming months, keeping New Zealanders informed, with access to news and information they can trust.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our DRIVEN specialists will be in touch to arrange a phone or video meeting to discuss further.
* Note - AutoPlay don't intend this advice to conflict with any advice from the government on COVID-19 and social distancing rules. This article is only intended to help dealerships get through the shutdown and come out the other end with the tools required to get back onto their feet. Please follow the governments current rules and be safe!
With the recent news that NZ is entering COVID-19 Level 4 it means that the sales departments of dealerships nationwide have been required to be closed down for 4 weeks. What the full picture means for kiwi dealerships will become more clear over the coming weeks, but what is clear is that with no face-to-face customer contact there will be fewer leads coming into the dealership - even considering the potential for the general public to continue pre-purchase research online.
At AutoPlay we are keen to ensure that when the Level 4 Restrictions are lifted that your dealership is well equipped to hit the ground running in a post COVID-19 world. This means not only implementing an effective process for tracking and keeping leads in a holding pattern over the next 4 weeks, but also ensuring the dealership is equipped to deal with the public that may still be gun-shy about face-to-face contact.
What should I be doing now?
With the news having just dropped this week that NZ is effectively closed this week there are a number of things your dealership should be doing to make sure that you are set up for the next phase. If you haven't done this it's not too late!
1. Utilising Social Channels
Make sure to update your customers with what is happening at your dealership. Announcing this on Facebook is a nice, non invasive way of ensuring customers can stay up to date. This is a free activity that a dealership can do to engage with their target audience without requiring a sales team actively working.
2. Review Lead Management Settings
3. Review your Automatic Response templates?
It's very likely that during the shutdown period you won't have anywhere near a full team working - however that doesn't mean all your listing are pulled from being online and nor does it mean that customers won't continue to send email enquiries (though how much this occurs remains to be seen).
What can AutoPlay help with during the Lv4 restrictions?
Whilst the Level 4 restrictions are in place it's a definite that customers won't be coming into the dealership to view, test drive and purchase vehicles. However whats less clear is whether customers will still email the dealership to register interest or ask questions. If this happens you need to ensure you have a mechanism to manage these leads.
1. Send personalised videos with AutoPlay's Email Response Tool
AutoPlay has a built in video Email Response tool. If you can't be face to face with your customers then recording a personalised voice-over video can be the next best thing.
2. Communicate via SMS
3. Ensure you can track customer enquiry via Brochureware and the Wishlist Form
For the vast majority of dealerships in NZ getting stock to our little corner of the world will be challenging - whether it's brand new stock, or used imports.
What can AutoPlay help with once the restrictions are eased?
In an ideal world in 4 weeks the restrictions will lift and everyone can return to normality. However there is going to be fall out even after this happens (whenever that might be). Not only will the dealership be facing stock challenges but your sales team also will not have the cumulative pool of leads to manage. However you are not starting from scratch!
1. Audit your existing leads in AutoPlay
2. Re-prospect with Live Leads
It's likely when normality resumes you'll have a lot of cold leads that will need warming up again. When it's appropriate it might be worth using AutoPlay Live Leads to re-target these potential customers
3. In Market Leads
With cold leads and appraisals it might be tricky to work out which leads are worth contacting again once you finally do get more stock. In Market Leads looks at new listings and will automatically connect them to customers that might potentially be interested in the new stock
What if I still need my Sales Team to sometimes work remotely once the restrictions are eased?
We don't know what the future will hold. It's possible that even with an easing of the rules, there still might be restrictions impacting how your sales team can operate.
1. Work From Home Preparedness
Should we find an increasing reliance on working remotely whether it be through government restrictions or simply if the general public remains concerned about visiting too many places, it might change how we sell cars for much longer than we anticipated. In that scenario there are a number of things you can do to streamline these efforts.
Sales Person Items
2. Ability to conduct offsite Test Drive and Appraisals
Should the market dictate it we may find more customers wanting service away from a traditional dealership environment.
AutoPlay are working throughout the restrictions to make sure we can be there when you need us. If you want any assistance with any of the services AutoPlay can offer please contact email@example.com and we'll get one of our awesome customer experience team to get in touch.
AutoPlay and our friends at Need A Car are pleased to be able to offer free listings on needacar.co.nz from 1st April, 2020 for any dealership currently a customer of AutoPlay.
With dealerships closing for 4 weeks from 25/03/20 due to COVID-19 it's going to be impossible to continue to do business the way that we are all used to. With no face-to-face contact it's more important than ever to get as many eyeballs on your vehicles as possible. The general public will shift to searching online to find vehicles in preparation for when the time is right for them to buy - making every electronic lead more valuable than ever.
As part of both AutoPlay and Need A Cars commitment to helping dealers minimise the impact of the COVID shutdown, AutoPlay will export your listings to, and Need A Car will display your listings for free on needacar.co.nz.
needacar.co.nz is a purpose built vehicle listing website with circa 50,000 unique visitors per month. Engagement of browsers on the site is great - with each visitor spending an average of 6 minutes browsing the site each session. AutoPlay will take care of all the on-boarding after we get dealer agreement so it is well worth the effort to list your vehicles on the site.
AutoPlay feels strongly about not sharing your listing data anywhere you don't want it, so we will NOT automatically opt you in to this initiative. As such please contact our Support team on firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it set up for you.
If you have any questions about this initiative please email email@example.com
By the time you read this article we will be well immersed in the COVID-19 restrictions implemented on 25/03/20 and remembering February fondly as the last month of relative normalcy in the market. (Watch this space over the coming weeks for more info on market conditions as we see them at AutoPlay)
After a strong month in January, we saw a slight drop in the qty of leads by 2.9%, however this was more a sign of the short month than any early COVID-19 effects on the market – the likes of which we didn’t start seeing until March 2020. February 2020 saw an increase of 6.7% in Test Drives and 3.3.% in sales as dealerships started working the large number of leads that came in during January.
After a massive increase in lead volume of 41% in January, leads from dealership websites (Web – Dealer) decreased by 23.1% in February. ‘Web – Classified’ also decreased by 4.1% but due to the significant decrease in dealer website leads was able to recapture the title as NZ’s most common source of leads. Although ‘Brand’ leads increased marginally by 0.7%, the significant drops in leads from websites resulted in the 2.9% decrease in lead volume experienced from January to February 2020.
Mainly due to the significant increase in leads from dealer websites in January, we saw Test Drives from these sources increase by 8.7% in February to become the most common source for Test Drives. Test Drives recorded as ‘Direct’ increased by 3.4% comparatively to fall to second place, and ‘Web Classified’ Test Drives fell slightly by 1.7% into third.
Overall Sales increased by 3.3% in February with a small increase of 0.7% for ‘Web – Classified’ sales and large increases of 15.4% for ‘Web – Dealer’ sales and an increase of 11.7% in sales attributed to ‘Repeat’ customers.
Make sure to check back next month to see the top sources of leads, test drives and sales in March 2020.
AutoPlay Sales Pipeline is a pre-sales lead management tool designed for dealerships, dealer groups and automakers