Is a new consumer emerging from Lockdown?

Why the current shift in consumer behaviour is shaping a New Normal.

Being forced to stay at home, at a time of social distancing, has driven us to explore ways of doing things we never considered before. As consumers, we have managed to retain our quality of life during lockdown thanks to services that allow us to buy online.

We have discovered that we can buy pretty much everything online and have it delivered to our doorstep. Even a car.

Amazon has recently reported a 26% increase in revenue in the three months through March, due to shoppers being forced to stay at home.

COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were already under way, including the car-buying experience that moved from a traditional journey at the dealership, which included only a few digital steps limited to the discovery and awareness phases, to a more digital approach in line with the skyrocketing success of eCommerce.

This change in customer behaviour is pushing businesses to digitise their showroom, to provide their customers with a seamless omnichannel experience.

We know this trend is shaping the automotive industry, but is it going to last after coronavirus?

COVID has lasted long enough for customer behaviour to change and it’s not going to switch back, with people engaging more through digital channels, said Rebecca Cullen, product manager eCommerce at Close Brothers, a long-time partner of Codeweavers. She said this in a recent conversation about how much digital solutions helped their retailers during this uncertain time.

The more we can create flexibility in the customer journey and the dealer journey, and that relationship between them, the better it is for everybody. I totally expect digital tools will continue to be used outside COVID,

she added.

At the height of lockdown, more and more people were moving away from public transport due to safety concerns, preferring private cars to get to work safely.

With a large number of showrooms being closed during the first phases of lockdown, customers who may have not necessarily bought their vehicles online were now adapting to completing some steps digitally.

Rebecca said: “There were people who still needed to buy cars during lockdown. And obviously, everybody wanted to be as safe as possible, and maintain distance as much as possible.“

You get that knock-on effect. People who weren’t so comfortable originally with buying digitally have been put into circumstances where they’ve needed to get over the barriers, and they have.

“That behaviour will probably continue, so I think COVID-19 has probably had a really significant effect on digital take up.”

How is the industry responding to the shifts in consumer behaviour?

When retailers were forced to shut their showrooms, sales managers had to deal with challenges they had never faced before. Their business model was shaken up and they had to find alternative solutions to sell vehicles and meet customer expectations.

The business model that has dominated the industry for more than three decades and fought hard to remain competitive has had to face and adapt to unexpected events, opening up to newer and yet well- known ways of selling cars.

At a time where COVID restrictions are impacting customer behaviours, retailers have to develop strategies that meet the requirements of a new type of customer, a post-lockdown consumer who has new questions, different needs and new preferences in buying a vehicle.

Customers will always need guidance and reassurance from their retailers, and this is not likely to change in the future. Rebecca agreed:

“Retailers are at the heart of the conversation with the customer, who still needs to have that proper conversation with the retailer who can help them understand the vehicle and present the right finance options to them.”

Digitalisation of showrooms, omnichannel, contactless experience, these are only a few factors that all businesses have to reconsider today, with the “New Normal”.

Unusual times require unprecedented and proactive solutions that help shape the New Normal.

As a company that works exclusively within the automotive industry, at Codeweavers we have also shared the same concerns and challenges.

During COVID, we spent a lot of time brainstorming with our clients – lenders, retailers, manufacturers, media agencies, and providers – on how we could tackle the situation quickly and effectively.

We already had the products and services to keep the commerce side of the industry running, no matter what.

So we were able to either provide them with the solutions needed to enhance their own digital presence and offer customers a full online journey, or by integrating our off-the-shelf brandable commerce platform directly into their websites. We powered their vision with our API services, allowing powerful solutions never seen before.

Our range of solutions, which have demonstrated to be even more flexible than we thought, provided our clients with all the tools needed to digitise their journey and be there for their customers.

These solutions have been used in creative ways, enabling them to keep the relationship with their customers even stronger than pre-lockdown.

Rebecca Cullen, went on to tell us how these range of solutions had been received by retailers.

She said: “The Codeweavers Remote Quote and Apply solution has been really positively received by our dealers. It came to my attention, and it got approved, really quickly in the business.

“If you think about a situation where the dealer didn’t have that tool, then if a customer is phoning about a vehicle and the dealer can put a quote together, how do they get it out to the customer? “The next step for us would have been that the customer then had to go in or had to do the proposal form over the phone, breaking up the sales journey.

“This tool added that digital component that allowed the earliest stage of the conversation to be continued, and then, a lead is captured whether the customer completes the form fully or not.... which allows the dealer to be able to follow up, rather than that lead just going cold when they’ve sent the quote out.”

The past is no longer prologue: what’s been done before, won’t work today.*

The fact is, there’s been a major shift towards digital solutions that can help the industry’s customers become comfortable with buying vehicles online.

All the research shows that this is a trend that’s not about to slow down anytime soon, but is set to become the “New Normal” once lockdown is a distant memory.

We cannot predict what the future will look like, but after the life-changing events that we have seen in the past nine months it’s unlikely that we’ll just forget, go back to where we were and carry on like nothing ever happened.

New concepts and ideas have been cemented into consumer minds allowing new, exciting developments and challenges that will shape the industry as a whole.

We are prepared. Are you?

*From “Decoding the new consumer mind” – Kit Yarrow 2014.


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