For everyone in the auto industry, 2019 looked like the best of times and the worst of times. Auto sales topped 17 million for the fifth year in a row, suggesting that overall demand remains strong. Yet many brands saw declining or stagnant numbers, highlighting that there are clear winners and losers in the industry.
How will these trends develop over 2020 and into the new decade? Rather than speculate, we reached out to auto industry experts from across the country to get their predictions. Their auto dealer industry insights are surprising in some cases and illuminating in all cases. If you’re trying to start, grow, or revitalize a business in auto sales, learn what the insiders think is most important:
Auto Dealer Industry Insights in Their Own Words
Become a Master of Marketing
“Understand online marketing. In particular, used car dealerships are a bit behind in their online marketing endeavors, and digital is only growing. I still see most car dealerships specifically focusing on Craigslist when many additional platforms exist to help sell their inventory. So, in 2020 they should be focusing on growing their presence online.” That’s according to Sean Pour, Co-Founder of SellMax.
In fact, Pour thinks marketing is so important that dealers can stop worrying about their car lot location. Location isn’t everything anymore, and it no longer takes a high-visibility address to get your name in people’s heads. With the right marketing and an appealing inventory, people are willing to go a little out of their way to find you. Pour recommends taking the money you save on real estate and plugging it back into your advertising budget.
Introduce Financing to Service
“One trend we saw in 2019 that will continue in 2020 is the rise of financing technology in auto parts and services departments. Because car repairs are usually an unexpected expense, dealers were often seeing customers delay or walk away from service, which isn’t good for the customer or the dealer. Since we’ve been able to implement technologies that enable customers to split up a bill into monthly payments in less than a minute (no one has time at the register to fill out a long application), with personalized rates and 90% approved, we’ve seen over 1,800 dealerships across the country have adopted our solution. The end result is higher revenues for the dealer — and a safer car for the customer.”
Those auto dealer industry insights come from Tal Riesenfeld, VP of Sales for Sunbit. As he explains it, the concept of service finance sounds perfectly logical. So it comes as something of a surprise that the dealership financing and service departments sat adjacent for years without partnering up. Considering that service departments make up almost half (48%) of the average dealership’s gross profit, there’s a clear incentive to attract as many customers as possible. First-time customers who are impressed with the experience and pleased by the easy financing options might also become a lifetime customer and return tremendous value to the bottom line. Since almost all of the resources are in place already, why not create a closer relationship between service and finance?
Start Exploring Customer Intent
“There is such a strong emphasis on the who and what when it comes to marketing — especially in major-life purchase (MLP) marketing, like automotive shopping journeys. So often this type of data on a consumer is trumped by the when, often clouding insight on intent.”
Brian Epro, Vice President of Automotive at Jornaya, brings us this insight and has an example to illustrate how it works. Imagine a soccer mom who wants to buy a Jeep. You know who this person is and what she wants, but you have no idea when she plans to buy or why. You’re missing the customer intent: the important information that tells you when to send out a perfectly-timed marketing message to spark a trip to the dealership. Epro’s thoughts on this idea fit into one of the larger auto dealer industry insights and predictions for 2020, which is that data will become more important than ever. Auto sellers everywhere need to understand as much as possible about every customer (current or potential), then use that information to upgrade everything they do, starting with marketing.
Follow the Trends
“I predict people will also continue to see companies push electric vehicles in 2020. Not only are they better for the environment (which is important to increasingly eco-conscious customers), but they also provide significant fuel savings. Electric SUVs are also particularly popular at the moment. Auto dealerships with lots of SUVs on their lots should definitely focus on marketing those SUVs to as many people as possible.”
In this statement, vice president of marketing for Faveable and SUV expert Liz Jeneault helps encapsulate a timeless truth about the auto market: customer preferences don’t always make sense. At the same time that drivers want big, capable vehicles in every shape and size conceivable, they’re buying and considering electric vehicles in record numbers. For dealers, that means stocking a lot of SUV’s along with larger numbers of electric and hybrid vehicles. In the best-case scenario, you should give your customers electric SUV options to consider. According to Renault, there’s no sign of SUV sales declining anytime soon. Meanwhile, countless forces are pushing for all vehicles to use less gas. Any dealership, new or used, can leverage these trends to build a more attractive inventory.
Thrive in 2020 with Viking Bond Service
By all accounts, 2020 looks a lot like 2019 in the auto industry. The bad news is that sales are forecast to drop by 1.2%, falling below the $17 billion threshold that’s been maintained for the previous five years. The good news is that Americans continue to spend more on new and used vehicles, which is part of why auto sales remain a profitable enterprise for those involved.
If you’re one of those tens of thousands of businesses nationwide, you probably need a bond to operate legally. But with so many exciting, important, and urgent changes reshaping the industry, you never want to have to worry about your bond. That’s why you need a great partner. Count on Viking Bond Service to make every aspect easy, from application to renewal to claims. Our team is committed to making the process seamless so that you can focus on what’s really important – the business of the dealership. Explore our site to learn more.