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 email@example.com.
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get one of our awesome customer experience team to get in touch.
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 is incredibly feature rich and when used right AutoPlay will help minimise lost leads, as well as helping improve transparency, accuracy and efficiency. In 2019 we put together a case study detailing how AutoPlay has helped one dealer group improve their conversion from 21% to 31% (named here as 'Excellent Motor Group' for privacy reasons).
So how was this improvement in lead conversion from 21% to 30% achieved? Firstly, the industry benchmark for online lead handling is to reply within less than 10 minutes. Most dealers fall quite short of this and although performing solidly - Excellent Motors likewise had room for improvement.
Through working with AutoPlayAuto.com Excellent Motor Group were able to gain transparency over how long their sales teams were taking to reply to leads. Through these insights they were able to focus on improving this KPI by 58% - resulting in more customers engaged with before they have a chance to turn elsewhere.
As well as being first to respond its also important to make sure you continue to follow up. On average it takes 5 customer touchpoints to make a sale. At AutoPlay we also see sales being logged after contacting the customer 10 or more times.
They say success leaves clues. When looking at how Excellent Motors compare against another similarly sized dealer group we see that Excellent Motor Group made more than 340 sales after contacting customers more than 5 times - compared to only 190 for the similarly sized group.
This level of contact can only be sustained with effective lead Management processes and toold designed to show you what you need to do, when you need to do it.
As well as contacting customers first, and contacting customers the most, you also want to make sure you are retargeting customers who have not bought from you. Lost leads is something AutoPlay often preach about as we believe lost leads are the single biggest opportunity to improve lead management and sales performance.
With Excellent Motor Group AutoPlay saw that they only were making on average 2.3 contacts on leads that were ultimately closed as lost. AutoPlayAuto.com helped them re-market to every single lead closed as lost across their entire dealer network. This method of proactively reintroducing their customers to the sale pipeline resulted in an incremental increase of 22 sales in just 12 months - with no increase in lead volumes.
AutoPlay now can offer Dealer Performance Coaching to our customer network. Dealer Performance Coaching focuses on identifying the weak areas in your lead management processes and comes up with a tailored plan to help coach your dealership or dealer group to improved lead management standards. Contact us on email@example.com and reference "Dealer Performance Coaching" to find out more.
After a quiet December 2019, January saw a return to normalcy with Leads increasing by 17.6% and Test Drives increasing by 15.9% from December 2019 to January 2020 as dealers returned to work and the focus on generating leads was renewed. Despite these notable increases, January 2020 was still a quiet month for Sales with only a small 0.2% increase from month-to-month. With such increases in Leads and Test Drives it is highly likely that next month we will see a flow on effect to Sales despite the short calendar month in February.
A large reason for the jump in Leads from December to January was that ‘Web – Dealer’ leads increased massively by 41% - making leads from the dealer’s own website once again the most common source of leads. Leads from 3rd party sites also increased with ‘Web – Dealer’ leads increasing by 11% from December. ‘Brand’ leads remain the third most common source of leads for NZ franchise dealers and after decreasing by 26.4% in December, rebounded to increase by 24.7% in January.
With Test Drives increasing by 15.9% in January we saw increases across the board in Test Drive sources in January. In particular the ‘Direct’ source saw a significant increase of 23.4% - making it the most common source of Test Drives in January (up from 3rd in December). This seems to indicate that customers visited dealerships more often in January as ‘Web – Classifed’ (up 9.6%) and ‘Web – Dealer’ (up 16.5%) both increased by smaller margins.
Sales only increased by 0.2% in January, and this was mirrored by the top source of sales – ‘Web – Classified’ which also marginally increased (up 0.3%). Despite sales increasing overall from December, sales attributed to ‘Web – Dealer’ and ‘Repeat’ sources decreased significantly by 13.2% and 10.3% respectively. It will be interesting to watch this space in February to see if sales from this source rebound – something likely for ‘Web -Dealer’ leads which are now the most common source of leads in NZ.
Make sure to check back next month to see the top sources of leads, test drives and sales in February 2020
Happy New Year to everyone! With 2020 now upon us it’s time to look back upon the last month of 2019 and review the top sources of leads, test drives and sales in December last year. December is traditionally a quiet month for dealerships - a naturally lower volume of activity, coupled with the fact that it can be harder to retain lead management discipline when you’d rather be at the beach – often results in sizeable decreases in the volume of leads, test drives and sales.
December 2019 was no different with leads decreasing by 13.4% from November to December 2019, test drives decreasing even further by 22.3% and sales falling off slightly by 7.8%. With the decreased volume of leads and test drives in December it will be interesting to see the flow on effect on January performance – already a quiet month with many people still on holiday.
With leads decreasing by 13.4% month-to-month the tops sources of leads decreased across the board. Interestingly this was more evident for dealership websites with the volume of leads dropping by 16.8% for the ‘Web – Dealer’ source and only decreasing by 6.6% for the ‘Web – Classified’ source. This suggests that whilst dealer websites are very competitive with the likes of Trade Me and Driven over the course of the year, these classified websites do a better job of retaining eyeballs over the xmas and new year’s period.
This was mirrored to a lesser extent with the volume of test drives in December 2019. Test drives attributed to ‘Web – Classified’ sources decreased by 12.3%, compared to a 18.3% decrease for test drives attributed to ‘Web – Dealer’ sources. Interestingly test drives recorded against the ‘Direct’ source decreased by only 6.1% vs the total average decrease in test drives of 22.3% - meaning either there was still a steady stream of true “walk in” test drives, or dealers did not push these customers as much to identify the true reason they came into the dealership for a test drive.
Sales decreased overall by 7.8% from November 2019 to December 2019, however several of the top sources of sales experienced even greater drops – meaning some of the lesser recorded sources of sales were not as affected by the holiday period. Sales from the ‘Web – Classified’ source decreased by 10.7% in December 2019, whilst ‘Web – Dealer’ sales only decreased by 5.5%. Whether this means anything significant when contrasted by the larger than average drop in ‘Web -Dealer’ leads and test drives remains to be seen – it may be too soon to see the full flow on effect of these decreases.
From everyone here at AutoPlay we’d like to wish every dealer a successful 2020 and hope you all embrace effective lead management practices in 2020 (we can help with that!). Make sure to check back next month to see the top sources of leads, test drives and sales in January 2020.
In the latest version of AutoPlayAuto.com you can now click on the Phone or Mobile number field to automatically make a phone call on any compatible device. If the field is editable there will be a green 'CALL' button. If the field is not editable simply click on the Phone number to prompt the call.
After clicking on the phone number or the CALL button your call will be logged in the Sales Pipeline in 3 places.
The Lead Progress will also be automatically updated to 'Phone Call Made' (if Progress is past 'Phone Call Made' it will date stamp the appropriate Progress step but will not update the leads current progress). Note - this only works with the standardised list of Lead Progress steps.
At this stage AutoPlay cannot record and capture phone conversations directly via the AutoPlayAuto.com application.
With approx 80% of all leads not converting to Sold, it's important that you have a plan to re-target these potential customers. For many dealers, just keeping up with incoming leads can occupy all their focus, let alone managing a targeted communications plan for "lost leads".
AutoPlay Live Leads are a fantastic way of re-targeting a specific audience amongst your lost leads, and now AutoPlay can offer our NZ customers a new Managed Live Leads Service. From just $250 NZD per month, per location AutoPlay will provide the following;
If you are interested in signing up to AutoPlays Managed Live Leads Services contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Create personalised video emails to reply to customer emails – building rapport and increasing call back by up to 60%.
TRACK EMAIL VIDEO VIEWS
Track your eDM and Email Response open rates and video views – giving salespeople another indicator of interest levels.
Provide your customers with consistent branding via standardised email templates, and templated standard responses.
RE-MARKET WITH LIVE LEADS
Take a targeted approach by building a contact list from your captured enquiry based on specific lead criteria.
STREAMLINE FOLLOW UP
Create a threshold for 'active’ leads and automatically follow up by creating scheduled calendar events
REQUALIFY WARM LEADS
Take advantage of leads you have already captured to re-qualify potential sales for no additional marketing spend.
In July we saw the volume of leads captured in NZ decrease by 3.2% from June 2019. In August the number of leads rebounded to increase by 2.6% from month-to-month. Unfortunately, the increases did not continue across the other KPI’s we track with Test Drives decreasing by 0.3% and Sales decreasing by 10.2% from July to August 2019.
‘Web – Classified’ was again the most common source of Leads – increasing by 4.7% from July to August. ‘Web – Dealer’ remained the second most popular source of Leads in NZ but decreased by 3.4%. After a drop of almost 70% from June to July due to the end of Fieldays, the Brand source rebounded to increase by 9.9% in August.
In August ‘Web Classified’ was the most common source of Test Drives and increased by 5.1%. Test Drives arising from ‘Web – Dealer’ leads decreased by 11.5% and Test Drives from ‘Direct’ leads decreased by 4.3% from July to August.
After a strong Sales month according to AutoPlay stats for the month of July, August Sales were slightly down with Sales from ‘Web – Classified’ leads down 4.2%, ‘Web – Dealer’ down 6.8% and Sales from ‘Repeat’ sources down 1.2% from July to August 2019.
Make sure to check back next month to see the top Sources of Leads, Test Drives and Sales in October 2019.
May 2019 saw increases of more than 8% in the number of Leads, Test Drives and Sales from the previous month. In June 2019 we saw a slight increase in leads of 3.3%, but Test Drives decreased by 10% from May 2019 to June 2019, and Sales decreased by 15.7% from month to month.
The top 3 sources of leads remain unchanged with ‘Web – Classified’ continuing to be the most common source of leads for NZ Dealers despite decreasing by 1.3% from May to June 2019. With Fieldays in June, ‘Brand’ supplied leads jumped a spot to be the second largest supplier of leads in NZ – on the back of a 29.6% increase the previous month, leads from the ‘Brand’ source increased a further 15% in June. ‘Web – Dealer’ rounded out the top 3 despite a 6.6% decrease.
Test Drives decreased across the board as we were yet to witness the conversion of Leads to Test Drives within June from the Fieldays event. Typically, we would expect to see an increase in Test Drives in the months following Fieldays. From May 2019 to June 2019 we saw a decrease of 24.7% in Test Drives from the ‘Web - Dealer’ source, a decrease of 2.4% from ‘Web – Classified’ and an increase of 3.3% in Test Drives generated from May to June 2019.
Sales dropped by 15% from May to June across kiwi AutoPlay users. We saw this trend across all sources with ‘Web – Classified’ decreasing by 22.9%, ‘Web – Dealer’ decreased by 14.7% and Sales from the ‘Repeat’ Source decreased by 16.5%.
Make sure to check back in August to see the top Sources of Leads, Test Drives and Sales in July 2019.
AutoPlay Sales Pipeline is a pre-sales lead management tool designed for dealerships, dealer groups and automakers