2020 in the Automotive Industry
Author: Natalie Banks - Digital Marketing Specialist
2020 has undoubtedly earned itself the title of ‘the worst year ever’ amongst most people, for one obvious reason, but how did ‘the year that never was’ really affect the automotive industry?
Before we knew what lay ahead of us…
Before the virus had even entered the UK shores and before we knew what was about to happen to the industry, two of our senior leadership colleagues, Martin Dew, Digital Solutions Director and David Levett, Head of Digital Marketing, discussed how automotive dealers could capitalise the return on investment from their website. The discussion materialised from the Google algorithm updates that were rolled out in February 2020.
Main discussion points were:-
- Understand what competitors are doing and the current market.
- Content is key, be proactive, creative, engaging, concise and informative.
- Well-structured website with best practices for search engine visibility.
March 2020 saw a whole new range of worries, where all strategies had to be re-examined. Having an online presence suddenly became incredibly important, if not a necessity, more than ever before. Undeniably people have switched their buying habits to online, in all industries not just automotive, with online becoming the only way for car dealers to keep trading when the dealerships are closed to customers. Moving the physical showroom online!
Autoweb Design quickly understood that adapting to the climate was crucial. Wanting to remain unscathed from the negative effects the pandemic could have on businesses, we went on a mission to provide the best digital presence and websites, that really work for our customers, so in April 2020, we launched our very own e-commerce feature.
The free e-commerce bolt-on integrates onto your website, which allows for customers to either reserve a car or complete the full purchase online. This product will now be applied as standard, on all website packages available from Autoweb Design. If you still haven’t added ecommerce to your website let us know, we’re here to help. Or click here to learn more.
Trends and SEO Findings
When car dealerships were finally allowed to re-open in early June 2020, we saw a stark increase in our clients’ website traffic across the board, which was more surprising than expected.
We were surprised by the instant drop in traffic that occurred at the end of March, as we expected search intent to still be strong, as it is thought that as much as 92% of car buyers do research online before buying.
Throughout lockdown interesting trends were uncovered such as ‘desktop users searching for cars increased appreciably’ as the result of people working from home and spending more time on computers rather than mobiles. We wanted to share our findings throughout the year hosting webinars and Q&A sessions to keep positive and offer insight and advice during the pandemic.
Was there any backlash?
At Autoweb Design, we pride ourselves in being a data driven agency, so of course we wanted to see how much of a hit the automotive industry had really taken during the pandemic.
Our first impressions were that the search interest was just not there; people had gone into lockdown mode, were enjoying the fantastic weather we were having and generally had other things on their mind.
We could see, using a combination of industry knowledge and third-party tools, that search interest had taken a hit, it was clear. But we wanted to know why. As the pandemic didn’t affect peoples’ ability to search for cars.
There was a definite correlation between website traffic and lockdown regulations, particularly during the first lockdown back in March 2020. Almost immediately, website traffic dropped when we were plunged into lockdown and saw an immediate increase when it was announced that car dealerships were allowed to re-open in June.
This type of trend would lead us to believe that users were not initially confident in taking the car buying process online, or even at the stage to be doing research for their next car. The other possibility is that users assumed that with dealerships being closed, there was no way for them to trade, but in fact it was quite the opposite – dealerships went digital.
Search trends during the second quarter of the year were definitely down when we analysed relevant but generic search terms.
‘Cars for Sale’
Whether it was reserve/buy online or click and collect, dealerships were quickly adapting to the lockdown restrictions that were imposed, but it was taking some time for potential customers to adapt to going digital.
We did notice that those users who were happy to adapt to the digital changes, were still converting, whether that was simply requesting more information or reserving a car online, meaning conversion rates either didn’t take a hit, or were better than ever.
How Autoweb Design continued
Whilst our clients have had to adapt to changes quickly, Autoweb Design have been busy helping them adapt digitally….
In late Q4, Suzuki rolled out an incentive to their franchise dealer network with the goal of ensuring that Suzuki led the way in the UK in terms of online sales capability through their dealers. With a stringent list of criteria alongside a tight deadline, our team had to quickly create a consistent, efficient process that would ensure success, not just for our existing Suzuki clients, but also the significant number of Suzuki dealerships that came to us. As we were able to meet the criteria in time, unlike their previous provider.
We were delighted to fulfil every requirement laid out by Suzuki ahead of their audit deadline, which allowed all our clients to unlock the financial incentive, also giving them industry leading website platforms, built to deal with whatever curveballs they encounter in 2021. This project also shows the wider industry that Autoweb Design are second to none in our ability to deliver large scale, manufacturer led projects to strict deadlines and criteria.
Now here in 2021 and things are still far from normal, a good way to go about audience interaction is to inject a little bit of humour, as we are all in the same boat in the fact that nobody really knows what is going on and in all honestly could just do with some positivity and a chuckle. So here is our attempt – There’s nothing like relaxing on the couch after a hard, long day of working on the couch. - but we’re sure you can come up with something better than that.
Our aim for the rest of 2021 and beyond is to practice what we preach. Creating lots of content, engaging more with the community, giving updates, tips, tricks and offerings through several online avenues. Basically, building our own online presence. Let us know what you would like to see from us? We’d love to hear from you. Also give us a like on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter so you don’t miss out!