Analysts have been saying for months that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for months and even years, but that eventually auto sales figures will return to normal. However, many are also quick to point out that how the sales will be gotten has been changed forever due to the pandemic.
Because of social distancing requirements and other necessary precautions, online sales took off during the pandemic and automakers and dealers had to scramble to catch up. Several have made adjustments to the way they do things to take advantage.
Nissan revealed Monday a completely new approach to online sales, it’s calling “Nissan@Home.” The new process allows buyers to handle everything online from test drive to delivery.
“Nissan@Home gives customers what they’re asking for – the ability to purchase a vehicle on their terms,” said Dan Mohnke, vice president, ecommerce. “Through this new program, Nissan dealers can provide a better customer experience which can, in turn, help improve their own business performance. It’s an important first for Nissan, and a great value to our customers.”
The program is designed to give customers a “seamless” experience, the automaker notes, through a dedicated website. Through the site, they can schedule a test drive, arrange financing and even schedule a service appointment. The site is compatible with computers, tables and smart phones.
The company tested at seven dealerships in Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Florida and Illinois to work out the bugs. At the end of the pilot program, all seven recommended the company roll it out nationwide, Nissan officials noted.
“You see what’s happening now with holiday shopping. Online buying is massive and absolutely what today’s consumer is wanting. COVID-19 has only increased that demand,” said Dan Banister, owner of Banister Nissan of Chesapeake and Banister Nissan of Norfolk, both in Virginia.
“It was remarkable what we found during the test this summer. Our sales close-rate nearly doubled with customers who used this online shopping solution.”
Many automakers have reported that online sales have risen dramatically during the pandemic and that they expect that to continue afterward. Mercedes-Benz officials said recently they expect that 25% of all passenger car sales to be online purchases.
Automakers should get used to it, according to a recent study by Gartner Research. Currently less than 1% of all sales are completed online, that number is expected to jump to 20% within five years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the sales of cars online and convinced a growing number of customers to avoid showrooms for future purchases,” said Pedro Pacheco, senior research director at Gartner.
“New technologies have taken a long time to proliferate in the automotive industry. As the car becomes more of a digital platform that will change. Car manufacturers are shifting from hardware capabilities to software platforms that are tied to cloud-based ecosystems which will combine functions such as payments and commerce.”