COVID-19 Update: Digital Vendors Continue to Roll Out Dealer Solutions

By Desiree Homer

Have You Upgraded Your Virtual Business Tools Yet?

You may have already incorporated new software upgrades and digital tools for your dealership. For many, those virtual and data-driven tools have proven to be game-changers during the pandemic. But there are dealer owners who have not yet found the best-fit vendors for the long-term. Others may have implemented quick-response digital solutions early on in the pandemic, but have yet to carve out best practices for digital engagement moving forward. The good news is, if you fall into the latter of these scenarios, the vendor pool of digital solutions has grown substantially. If you haven’t upgraded your platforms, now is definitely the time to do so.

Dealers Weren’t the Only Businesses Scrambling for Digital Solutions

During quarantine conditions, dealers did their best to find digital engagement strategies and virtual solutions. But automotive vendors didn’t sit idle either. There has been a movement of existing companies to streamline their product offerings to meet the digital transformation. Some of the tech-based partners reworked their plans to prioritize launches of better dealership tools. Many of those vendors came to the aid of dealers by offering free or reduced-cost services to help through the quarantine conditions.

A Host of New Products and Offerings

Automotive News recently featured a few tech vendors that rushed to accelerate the launch of new products for dealers. Dealerware, for example, began offering loaner vehicle contract agreements. Russ Lemmer, Chief Product Officer and President for the company, said the industry has leaped ten years over the last ten weeks, and everyone is “thirsting for all the right digital tools.” Prodigy developed a virtual showroom platform that allows vehicle shoppers to engage with the sales staff remotely. AutomotiveMastermind tested its digital business center on behalf of its dealer partners for more than a month. For dealers who are contemplating which digital tools to add to the arsenal, finding the best long-term partnerships is easier. And the post-COVID marketplace is predicted to demand an entirely remote effort ongoing.

We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

Some of the data right now shows a huge jump in car buying activity in recent months. But there are some experts warning that dealers still need to proceed with caution. The old normal is in the rearview mirror, for sure. We’re not out of the woods yet. With the possibility of sliding back into shutdown conditions, dealers need to use this time to secure and develop more robust virtual buying options. And a backslide is a real possibility, according to Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist for Cox Automotive. In a recent podcast episode for Dealer News Today, Smoke discusses what he sees as factors and indicators, that with a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, could mean a second wave of shutdowns. “The market is sliding back. Car dealers need to prepare,” Smoke says.

Honing in on your dealership’s digital strategies today may be what helps you endure a potential second economic storm. And the vendors who offer solutions, systems, and virtual products have been busy advancing their efforts, meaning the options are available now that maybe weren’t available back in March. Take advantage of the latest offerings and lay in your long-term virtual efforts while the car buying is rebounding.