Online sales could provide lifeline to dealers disrupted by coronavirus

Online sales could provide a lifeline to car, van and motorcycle dealers whose business will be disrupted by coronavirus.

James Tew, CEO, said that in the event that consumers were either afraid of visiting showrooms because of wanting to avoid unnecessary human contact or effectively confined to their homes, online could still provide an effective route to market.

He said: “We’re raising this subject with all due sensitivity but, in the event that footfall to dealerships falls dramatically, businesses need to find a way to keep functioning as normally as possible. Moving more sales online is a potential solution.

“There is a potential parallel to the existing situation. We know that when people are sitting at home for extended periods, they shop online. Every year, across Christmas and New Year, usage of our platforms increases dramatically.

“Now, we’re not glibly suggesting that a pandemic is the same as a public holiday. It’s not. But there are lessons to draw. People with money to spend may well want to shop for a car, van or motorcycle at the most unlikely times.”

James said that step one for the industry over the next few days was to maximise the online presence of each dealership but there was also a need to consider how the fulfilment side of the business would work.

“Really, this is the time to ensure that, in terms of the online motor retail facilities that you offer, you have your house fully in order. Effectively, you need to be able to allow the customer to choose and finance their car online as a minimum.

“Then, you have to look at which aspects of the deal can be handled remotely that are currently undertaken on a human level. For example, can you put a process in place where someone can show you their part exchange via their mobile phone - for example, through a Facetime call?”

However, James added, there were unavoidably some areas that would involve person-to-person contact that would need very careful management.

“It seems to us that there are some points in the process of selling a car where some human contact is probably almost unavoidable, such as test drives and vehicle collection, and obviously the health of both employers and consumers is paramount.

“We would fully urge following official advice although we would also note that currently, there is no discussion that home delivery services are curbed and there is nothing to stop the dealer taking the vehicle to the consumer, especially if steps have been taken to ensure it has undergone an extensive cleansing process.”

James explained that iVendi was ready to talk to any vehicle retailer that needed assistance in terms of maximising its online presence.

“It’s a question of how, if we as an industry are facing a crisis – and I hope we aren’t but we could be – how we all pull together to share ideas that have a genuine effect. At iVendi, we have always taken the long-term view and that’s what we are doing here.”