Interview with Steve Morin, Managing Director of Boulevard Toyota
For some dealers, selling vehicles 100% online was an additional feature offered to connected buyers. However, like us, they were certain that this way of buying cars would become more popular over time. Then, without warning, COVID-19 appeared and social distancing quickly made online sales a necessity. These visionary dealers are one step ahead.
Steve Morin, General Manager of Boulevard Toyota located in Quebec, shares how he keeps his business in the race despite COVID-19.
Focus on Selling Cars Online
On March 23, you closed your showroom and decided to focus on online sales. How is business going?
Steve Morin: It’s going pretty well. About 40 vehicles will have been delivered this month. This means that we sell more than one vehicle per day, which is exceptional in these circumstances. Even if it has nothing to do with the figures we were seeing before.
Did the COVID-19 crisis highlight any processes that you needed to improve?
When we wanted to set up online sales for the dealership, we started slowly, with the SHOWROOM-V2 module for used vehicles. We thought we had time. Then, COVID-19 forced us to accelerate our digital shift, which is a good thing! We’ve been talking about delivering vehicles to homes for years, and now it’s possible.
Vehicle Delivery During COVID-19
According to the CCAQ, it’s possible to deliver a vehicle provided that the standards of hygiene and social distancing are followed. What processes have you put in place?
The vehicles are configured on our website by the buyer. The documents are signed, and the first payment made online before delivery. Two of our sales advisers are teleworking to meet customer requests and make deliveries. They put a protective plastic on the seats and the steering wheel, disinfect the entire cabin, and the key is placed in the cup holder. There is no contact between sellers and buyers.
What issue is of most concern to consumers?
We are often asked if a test drive is still possible. There are still many people who buy their vehicle online without a test drive, because they have already bought from Toyota for years and they trust the product.
Has your area of influence changed as a result of online vehicle sales during COVID-19?
For new vehicle sales, we have our usual PMA, but for used vehicles, we’ve received leads from far away locations like Nova Scotia, but also Ontario or New Brunswick, which is also quite a ways away.
Communicate, Support, Reassure
How do you communicate with your consumers?
We communicate mainly by email, phone and text. Buying online is simple for people who are used to it. However, a number of older people have never ordered anything online and they really need reassurance. Sometimes we have very detailed telephone conversations to explain the process step by step.
We also advertise our online sales on our website, social networks and on search engines. We have slightly reduced our Google Ads paid advertising budget, but we are maintaining good results, because as the cost per click has decreased, our budget is balanced.
What are you doing to reassure and encourage customers to buy online?
In terms of incentives, we are well supported by the manufacturing programs which are really advantageous in terms of lease renewals. The majority of our consumers contact us when their lease is ending, because they’re worried about what to do next. But when they discover that with the current programs, they can leave with a new vehicle for similar or lower monthly payments, they’re reassured and follow through with buying online.
Do you think online vehicle sales will become more important when the COVID-19 crisis ends?
It is certain that visitors will always come to our showrooms, but consumers will be more apt than before to buy vehicles online. This market represents about 10 percent of our total pre COVID-19 sales and I think it will probably double once everything is over. The teams will have gained a lot of experience in online sales and the processes are well structured.
What impact do you think this period of social distancing will have on the customer journey?
I think BDC agents will become real online sellers. For me, when someone makes an online request, it’s because they don’t want to travel. So, if the agent works on getting the client to make an appointment at the dealership, this doesn’t meet the customer’s initial wishes.
What actions will you take once social distancing ends?
In addition to implementing the changes to the BDC, we’ll train salespeople to use our new tools and processes for selling vehicles online. When we deliver cars bought online, we’d also like to provide videos containing useful information such as how to use the radio, air conditioning, etc. What we want to do is become more proactive in terms of our customers’ needs.