Navigating post-COVID-19 America will be a difficult task for many businesses. Though many states are opening, we won’t be going back to “normal” any time soon.
What’s important to note is that even before COVID-19, it’s been clear that consumer shopping habits have been changing rapidly. According to Mintel, for example, 33% of Americans shop online at least once per week, while 69% shop online at least monthly.
Remote shopping is not new, of course – nor is it the result of COVID-19. After all, Amazon has been at the forefront of this change for years. A recent RBC Capital Markets survey found that 55% of Americans had ordered groceries online and 60% of them used one of Amazon’s services to do it. It’s not surprising then to see that Amazon’s shares climbed 30% in the first two quarters of 2020, boosting the company’s market value to $1.2 trillion.
So, what does this mean for outdoor power equipment, powersports and agricultural dealers? The answer is simple – it’s time to move closer to a remote shopping experience. After all, the automotive industry is already doing it. Hyundai UK, for instance, now allows its customers to configure and purchase vehicles via its “Click to Buy” program, showing that online orders are not just for Amazon shoppers.
The first step toward this future is fully embracing remote work and communications. Here’s how you can get started:
1. Set up Remote Customer Communications
The phone has been the go-to method of communicating with customers for almost a century and it’s still very useful in many ways. However, the modern understanding of the “phone” has changed. According to Statista, the percentage of households with a landline telephone in the US fell from 92.7% in 2004 to 41.7% in 2018. Meanwhile, the number of cellphone-only households rose to 54.9% by 2018.
While people still accept phone calls, emails and texts have become just as popular, if not more so, particularly among millennials and Gen Xers. Given that the modern smartphone can receive all three, it’s only logical to connect with your customers across all of them to maximize your reach.
Your current customer database is already likely populated with smartphone numbers and emails. Why not take advantage of it and communicate with customers en masse using these channels? With a proper texting and emailing solution, you can have one person manage hundreds of communications at once, instead of dealing with each customer on a one-on-one basis.
2. Invest in Your Online Presence & Sell Remotely
Since more and more consumers are turning to eCommerce retailers like Amazon, the first thing you need to do is to build up your online presence.
- Start with your website. Think of your website as the consumer’s window into your operations. What do they see? Do they see your part and unit stock information, including availability (hopefully by location)? Do they see accurate information on your service? In general, how much can a customer learn from your website before doing business with you? According to Thinkwithgoogle, about 63% of shopping occasions start online, meaning that the first time most customers will learn about you is through your website.
- Use third-party websites. While your website is a great way to promote yourself to those who are already familiar with your brand, don’t stop there. Create an account on websites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and OfferUp, so more buyers are aware of you and your stock, encouraging them to buy from you and you alone.
- Set up pickup and delivery. Once you have a website and social media accounts in place, use them to invite your customers to purchase your products online and pick them up at the store. It’s also a good time to offer delivery. You can rely on a third party, like the postal service, or hire your own delivery team that can deliver within your locality.
Whether you have already embraced the web world or not, the COVID-19 crisis has shown how truly valuable an online presence can be. So, if you’re looking to stay competitive, going online is your best bet for maximum success.
3. Go Mobile for Service
Some things can never be remote, such as service. You will always need a shop and the people who conduct all the repairs. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t apply the “remote work” mentality to this as well. Empower your technicians to use mobile devices, so they can communicate with each other without coming into close contact as well as take photos of failed units, if they are not doing so already.
There are also mobile applications, designed specifically for technicians, which allow them to:
- Easily acquire customer work order approvals via e-signature capture
- Display the status of each work order for everyone on the team
- Capture or attach photos to related work orders or jobs
- Clock in or out of scheduled jobs and accurately measure budgeted versus actual time
Whether you invest in an application or not, embracing mobile devices is key in the modern world.
If you’d like to explore how to keep your team motivated throughout this tough time as well as learn what tools you can use to transition to the “new normal” of post-COVID-19 America, be sure to consult our new guide.