How the Automotive Industry can Build Brand Resilience During COVID-19

It should come as no sur­prise that the auto­mo­tive indus­try has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. With a large num­ber of the world’s pop­u­la­tion res­olute­ly remain­ing indoors, pur­chas­ing a vehi­cle isn’t front of mind for many peo­ple and businesses.

Added to this the face-to-face nature of buy­ing a vehi­cle – plus the fact the man­u­fac­tur­ing process includes a sup­ply chain with, quite lit­er­al­ly, dozens of mov­ing parts – and you can see why auto­mo­tive sales are begin­ning to drop in many mar­kets.

The chal­lenges fac­ing auto­mo­tive brands, man­u­fac­tur­ers, and deal­er­ships are plen­ti­ful dur­ing this time, but there also exist many oppor­tu­ni­ties to mit­i­gate the com­mer­cial and eco­nom­ic impact on the indus­try. This will ensure brands emerge from the oth­er side in strong shape, and per­haps spur them towards a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion that has been long overdue.

Join the fight against COVID-19

Busi­ness­es have always had a respon­si­bil­i­ty to use their pow­er for good, and now is no dif­fer­ent. In fact, the way busi­ness­es react dur­ing COVID-19 will define the way they’re per­ceived in years to come.

It’s huge­ly encour­ag­ing, then, that many auto­mo­tive brands and deal­er­ships have been quick to lend their sup­port to those less for­tu­nate than them­selves. Across the world, lead­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Jaguar Land Rover are pro­vid­ing emer­gency vehi­cles to health work­ers, while oth­ers such as SEAT are using their fac­to­ries to help pro­duce life-sav­ing med­ical equipment.

Dur­ing times of great adver­si­ty, the spir­it of com­mu­ni­ty and help­ing oth­ers shines through, and auto­mo­tive brands and deal­er­ships must also play their part – whether that’s through shar­ing resources or using their net­works to ease cus­tomer concerns.

Email has long been the go-to chan­nel for auto­mo­tive brands want­i­ng to com­mu­ni­cate with its cus­tomers, but dur­ing the cur­rent envi­ron­ment, peo­ple are look­ing towards more per­son­al-touch chan­nels (such as social media) for a sense of human­i­ty from their favourite brands.

The most active brand com­mu­ni­ties are built on an omnichan­nel approach. Auto­mo­tive busi­ness­es need to shake-up how they can com­mu­ni­cate with their cus­tomer dur­ing this time, and that means embrac­ing new ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing and cre­at­ing dig­i­tal experiences.

Is auto­mo­tive final­ly going digital?

There’s no doubt the coro­n­avirus out­break will accel­er­ate con­sol­i­da­tion and trans­for­ma­tion in the auto­mo­tive sec­tor. Those that can react flex­i­bly and adopt a dig­i­tal mind­set dur­ing this peri­od will emerge the oth­er side fighting.

Encour­ag­ing­ly, in auto­mo­tive, over half (58%) of con­sumers say they’re still inter­est­ed in buy­ing a new car, but are wait­ing until lat­er in the year, accord­ing to new Auto Trad­er research. It’s crit­i­cal, then, that deal­ers and brands keep these prospects engaged until they feel more com­fort­able to make a purchase.

Deal­er­ships have his­tor­i­cal­ly relied on face-to-face inter­ac­tions in show­rooms to make sales, and are strug­gling to cope with an increased dig­i­tal demand. How­ev­er – accord­ing to the same Auto Trad­er report – despite the cur­rent envi­ron­ment, two in three peo­ple are open to the home deliv­ery of a new car, but many deal­ers don’t pos­sess the dig­i­tal set-up to deliver.

Dur­ing this peri­od of re-eval­u­a­tion, now is the time to look at over­haul­ing the tra­di­tion­al deal­er­ship infra­struc­ture, mov­ing towards busi­ness mod­els that are pow­ered by dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences and online sales.

Deal­er­ships should be explor­ing ways to enable their staff to com­mu­ni­cate and make sales remote­ly, while man­u­fac­tur­ers need to pre­pare them­selves for much high­er lev­els of col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­sol­i­da­tion with deal­er­ships when fac­to­ries begin to re-open.

With the major­i­ty of their staff work­ing remote­ly, auto­mo­tive brands have plen­ty of time to train their peo­ple on how to use new tech­nolo­gies and solu­tions more effectively.

Most impor­tant to remem­ber is, this isn’t just a short-term tac­tic to lim­it the dam­age caused by lock­down. In the long run, a cen­tralised, dig­i­tal approach will help brands bet­ter democ­ra­tise their data, increase collaboration/efficiency across the board, and allow them to scale much quick­er than before.

Focus on brand loy­al­ty and cus­tomer retention

Now, more than ever, it’s impor­tant to exer­cise respect when com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cus­tomers. We need to respect the uncer­tain­ty they’re feel­ing around lock­down lim­i­ta­tions. Brands cer­tain­ly shouldn’t be try­ing to exploit this sit­u­a­tion for com­mer­cial gain, but instead should be lis­ten­ing and react­ing to shift­ing cus­tomer con­cerns, and needs.

To increase cus­tomer engage­ment, loy­al­ty, and reten­tion, auto­mo­tive brands must focus on deliv­er­ing more proac­tive, per­son­alised, and time­ly dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences that align to a customer’s need or loca­tion. For exam­ple, UK-based deal­er Motor­point is offer­ing free home deliv­ery, while glob­al­ly, many automak­ers are defer­ring pay­ments, low­er­ing inter­est rates, and offer­ing extend­ed terms.

The advan­tages of an increased focus on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence isn’t new in auto­mo­tive how­ev­er. Ear­li­er this year, auto­mo­tive brands iden­ti­fied cus­tomer expe­ri­ence as one of its key com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tors over the next five years, accord­ing to Adobe’s 2020 Dig­i­tal Trends Auto­mo­tive in Focus report. The cur­rent envi­ron­ment means this focus will only accel­er­ate over the com­ing months, as brands increas­ing­ly rely on a dig­i­tal-first approach to cre­at­ing rel­e­vant and tai­lored experiences.

Cus­tomers will remem­ber how brands have react­ed and con­duct­ed them­selves dur­ing such a tumul­tuous peri­od. All eyes are on com­pa­nies to rebuild bet­ter as they come out of the cri­sis – and that’s just as impor­tant for auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies as any­one else. How brands take stock now and oper­ate dur­ing the lock­down will speak vol­umes in the long term – and will make all the dif­fer­ence in help­ing the sec­tor recov­er as cus­tomers pri­ori­tise the brands who got it right when mak­ing their next pur­chase, whether it’s dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic or after.

As the sit­u­a­tion with COVID-19 quick­ly unfolds, Adobe is com­mit­ted to giv­ing you the sup­port and resources to nav­i­gate this chal­leng­ing time – learn more.