CARSALES METRICS POINT TO MARKET RECOVERY, ONGOING CHALLENGES AND ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Firstly, I hope that this editorial finds you, your family and your co-workers, safe and well.

Record car-shopping activity

Australia is a very different place than it was back in March, where social distancing measures, health fears and general uncertainty made trading conditions particularly challenging not just for car Dealers, but for most retailers.

Thankfully, there’s no doubt that in the auto sector, tangible signs of recovery have emerged – perhaps quicker than many in the industry had forecast.

The ongoing recovery is particularly evident in our carsales.com.au audience and engagement data. For example, search activity on carsales.com.au has surged since mid-March. Around 55 million vehicle searches were conducted on carsales.com.au between 16-22 March. Just two months later, over 83 million vehicle searches were conducted between 14-20 May. And the increased car-shopping momentum has carried through to June. Between 3-9 June, 88 million vehicle searches were undertaken, resulting in over 19 million detailed views of inventory.

Overall, carsales served 32.2 million sessions in May 2020 – our highest ever month of traffic. May was also a record month for engagement with our Editorial content – a key indicator of interest in new and soon-to-be-released cars.

In great news for Dealers, there is genuine purchase intent underpinning the increasing car-shopping activity and it’s resulting in both immediate sales opportunities, and a pipeline of prospects to keep warm over the coming months. In May, we saw record days of sales enquiries sent to Dealers.

And in further good news, as state governments ease restrictions on domestic travel and consumers re-evaluate their lifestyles and transport preferences, many signs point towards an uptick in car ownership.
Enquiry response rates deteriorate.

In times like these, of very strong car-shopping activity on carsales.com.au, it’s critical that Dealers ensure that their inventory is published, highly visible and well presented.

It’s also imperative that Dealers follow up enquiries in a timely and effective fashion. Unfortunately, we’re now seeing the rate of Dealer enquiries that remain uncontacted after two hours and 24 hours trending higher – lagging behind the expectations of most consumers.

Some markets are performing better in following up prospective buyers than others. In recent data from May, Dealers in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria had the highest rates of following up prospective buyers within a two-hour timeframe, while Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales Dealers had had the lowest rates of response.

When it comes to effective follow up, every minute counts. Our advice to Dealers is to aim to contact prospective buyers within 30 minutes and ascertain their specific and unique needs. Post lockdown, consumers are particularly impatient and will buy another vehicle from a competitor Dealer if they don’t receive both speedy and personal service.

Quick and effective follow up is especially critical on a Saturday, where there is a greater chance that the prospective buyer is available to make an appointment to visit you immediately – and even conclude a deal on the day.

Our tools such as SMS via the AutoGate Mobile App, and SMS and email auto-responses, can assist Dealers with timely follow-up.

The most effective way to get in touch with a prospective buyer is to use the same communication channel that they used to submit their sales enquiry. That means responding to an email enquiry with an email. An SMS enquiry with an SMS. A phone call enquiry with a phone call.

For example, if you respond to an SMS enquiry with an email, there is greater chance that the buyer will not see your response. Many consumers will not have their email notifications switched on, or regularly check their email account, particularly on a Saturday.

In addition, a consumer that sent a text or email enquiry might not always be inclined to pick up a phone call from an unknown number on a Saturday.

Servicing after-hours shopping

A presence on carsales means that you’re open for business 24/7. With car buying now involving a laptop perched at the dinner table, or relaxation with the smartphone on the couch, consumers are visiting carsales and engaging with your inventory at all times of the day and night.

In May, over 50% of carsales sessions and over 40% of enquiries were submitted outside of traditional 9am-5pm business hours.

It’s important to ensure that you have strategies in place that immediately acknowledge a buyer enquiry outside of your business hours, such as auto responses via SMS and email.

Staggering your staffing hours may also enable you to better cater to these shoppers.

‘Buy from home’ facilitates sales transactions

The challenges of the COVID-19 period has seen our commitment to helping Dealers, with both effective products and innovative technology that meets evolving car-buying expectations, increase even further.

A key example of this commitment was our agile rollout of the new ‘Buy from home’ feature in April to meet the unique trading conditions caused by COVID-19. The ‘Buy from home’ feature groups the promotion of a number of ‘virtual showroom’ Dealer services that empower car buyers to better engage with cars – without leaving home. For example, by using the ‘Buy from home’ feature, Dealers can better highlight to consumers that they can package home test drives, finance applications, trade-in valuations, remote payments and driveway deliveries for a more seamless and remote sales transaction. These are key services that are required for a consumer to confidently buy a car from the comfort of home and sight unseen.

This feature has quickly resonated with consumers and Dealers across different brands and price points. Prominent on both the search results page and detailed view page of an inventory item, the ‘Buy from home’ feature is now available on more than 30,000 Dealer cars on carsales.com.au – and everything from a $1,000 2003 Kia Rio to a $1.2 million Rolls Royce Phantom 687S.

For Dealers, ‘Buy from home’ will be important to meeting evolving customer expectations and will continue to shape how sales transactions are conducted not just now, but well into the future. There are multiple resources across business.carsales.com.au and autogate.com.au that will assist Dealers in how to get started with ‘Buy from home’.

If you need further information, do not hesitate to contact your carsales Digital Account Manager.

This article was written by Michael Holmes, Executive Director, Dealer, carsales.

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