4 Key takeaways from our Canada Dealer Insights Summit

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on July 13, 2020

Last week, CarGurus hosted a virtual Dealer Insights Summit to provide Canadian dealers with actionable tactics and targeted insights around today’s unique environment. The event featured exclusive insights into current consumer sentiment, pro tips for using CarGurus tools, a live Canadian dealer panel discussion, and more. Below are four important takeaways from the online event.

1. While auto sales are currently being delayed, most are not lost.

Car sales were off to a strong start at the beginning of 2020 before COVID-19 came crashing onto the scene and caused car sales to plummet. The combination of job losses, economic uncertainty, dealership closures and fears of the virus all contributed to a massive dip in the auto market in March and April. Fortunately, however, sales have been on an upward trajectory since May, and that’s the takeaway to focus on here.

While shoppers are still delaying car purchases—78% reported delays in their purchasing plans in June — there’s been a 10% drop in delays since we last surveyed consumers in April. Another positive sign: only 2% of those who were planning to buy this year have delayed their plans indefinitely. So, while auto sales are on hold for many, most sales are not lost and will return (if they haven’t already).

2. Consumers’ expectations around car shopping are changing—and the sales process needs to change with them.

The majority of car shoppers expect dealers to take proactive steps to assure their safety while at a dealership. From sanitizing surfaces regularly to wearing facemasks, there’s plenty dealers can do to put shoppers at ease while on the lot. Among 2020 shoppers, the top expectations from a dealership when purchasing or servicing a vehicle include:

  • Wipe down surfaces regularly: 64%
  • Adhere to social distancing guidelines: 58%
  • Employees wear facemasks: 57%
  • Transparency about the steps they take to address cleanliness: 56%
  • Allow shoppers to visit by appointment only: 50%
  • Customers wear facemasks: 49%

While in-dealership precautions are important to shoppers, two-thirds of shoppers would prefer to use contactless services like virtual appointments, at-home test drives, or home delivery. This was down only 1% from our April survey results, making it clear that these new consumer expectations and preferences are here to stay.

The shift to digital retailing isn’t around the corner, it’s HERE.

All three of the car dealers on our live panel agreed that the car buying landscape has changed with more of the journey moving online. Digital retail has been a hot topic for a while now, but COVID-19 has definitely sped up the adoption of it among most dealers. Whether it’s providing a personalized shopping experience or linking a shopper’s online experience to the showroom (ideally both), it’s crucial that dealers get on board with digital retailing in order to compete in today’s market.

Cathie Pattinson, Dealer Principal of One Price Used Car Superstore, said she hopes to move more of the process online because it’s where the consumers are, and it makes it easier for her to track and manage everything digitally. The ultimate win-win.

4. During these unprecedented times and always, it’s important to be adaptable.

No one can predict the future, so being adaptable is crucial. Don’t be afraid to test new digital strategies. Just make sure that you have a way to track your marketing tactics and lead providers so you can see what’s working and what’s not. If you identify something that’s not working, remain calm, pivot, and try again. With a flexible approach, you’ll find the right strategy for your dealership.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the event or you just want to watch your favorite sessions again, the full recording of each session is available now.

Topics: CarGurus data, dealer insights summit