By Kristen Judd


Looking back to understand the challenges is helping to drive successful dealers forward with momentum.

As different parts of the country and eventually the whole country begin to emerge from the pandemic and resume business operations, dealers are being compelled to adapt to a digital retailing model for vehicle sales. In doing so, the need to be prepared with more lightweight, flexible, and affordable sales and marketing solutions that are specifically tailored to addresses the challenges automotive dealers will be facing has never been greater; targeted solutions that can be managed in one platform and drive value, confidence and opportunity.

It's a strategy I like to think of as "The Road Back".

To me, the road back focuses on four areas that dealers must be prepared to address:

  1. Consumer Confidence
  2. The Smaller Pie
  3. Further Operational Interruptions and Challenges
  4. Maximizing Opportunities and Resources

Let's take a closer look...

Consumer Confidence

Even when the world begins to leave their homes there will be considerable consumer confidence issues as a result of the pandemic for some time to come. Many people will still be reeling from the destabilizing realization that life as we know, for basically everyone on the planet, can change in an instant. While most people understand this intellectually, we’ve all just lived through seeing this play out. We must anticipate that there will be lingering consumer fears, insecurity, and caution in some areas that will impact business.

Many consumers will have ongoing concerns about potential health risks associated with being in proximity to others, being in businesses, coming in contact with contaminants, contaminants being in their vehicle or a vehicle they’re test-driving, and so forth. They will want to know about safety precautions being taken in the dealership, new disinfecting protocols being followed at the dealership, as well as opportunities to transact with the dealership to purchase and service without having to physically go to the store.

Many other consumers will be or will continue to feel economically insecure. While it's still unclear how many jobs will come back from quarantine conditions in different capacities and what level of unemployment will persist, most experts agree that we will minimally be in a recession. Jobs have been lost. Savings are being spent. Retirement savings have experienced losses. And there has been a collective realization that maybe we don’t need as much “stuff” as we think we do. 

TIP: These consumer confidence issues will need to be recognized and addressed. Appropriate ongoing communications is the perfect channel by which to achieve this! The OEM messaging right now receiving the best responses are the ones that focus on community and deliver messages of empathy and working together to weather difficult times together, not mercenary or tone-deaf messages. 

The Smaller Pie

As the COVID crisis has gone on we’ve seen the projections for how many new vehicles will be sold in 2020 get ratcheted down from over 16 million to as low as 10-11 million.  While there will be pent-up demand, for some of the reasons noted above, many consumers will be putting off plans to purchase a new vehicle.  Nevertheless, even though there might be less new car inventory and falling demand, there will be consumers with automotive needs that must be addressed.  The pie is about to get smaller for everyone and smart dealers should focus on owning their databases and scooping up as much low hanging fruit as they possibly can.   

TIP: Through mining available automotive databases and delivering segmented, targeted messaging, you will distinguish your dealership from oversaturated marketing. Focus on marketing the right offers to the best-qualified opportunities to overcome challenges and advance your business objectives.


  • 1.8 million customers are scheduled to come off lease between now and July and a total of 4.1 million lease returns in 2020. These customers will have an automotive need. As a dealer, you will need own your lease customers by communicating with them and getting them back to the dealership!
  • Customers reaching the end of their finance contracts are always good candidates for a new vehicle.
  • Customers are demonstrating increased shopping intensity and purchase intent
  • Customers with equity in their vehicles are candidates to trade up, switch keys or even trade down to reduce monthly payments in the current economic climate
  • People who submitted leads for new vehicles that remain unclosed for 60 days are far more likely to purchase used cars. Given that your dealership may be eager to move used inventory given the limited auctions, reduced values, and the depreciating nature of the asset, this is a good target group for aging used inventory campaigns!

Further Operational Interruptions and Challenges

We’ve all experienced first-hand how quickly the health risks of a highly contagious illness can force changes to the way we conduct business and everyday life.  There is still much we don’t know about COVID – if you’ve had it are you immune from getting it again, will it slow down during Summer months, will there be a resurgence in the late Fall/Winter, how long will it take for a vaccine and/or therapeutics, and many more – so it remains unclear whether the whole country or even parts might have to resume shelter in place conditions at some point.  Dealerships must put plans in place to maintain the continuity of their businesses and be able to operate with restricted services, hours, and potentially a leaner staff. 

TIP: Even with reduced hours, operations, and staff, leads will need to be responded to in a timely manner with quality responses that move the prospect down the path to purchase and track changing interest.  Find a responsible partner with longevity in the automotive space with a smart lead solution that functions with and without your dealership’s involvement. 

Maximizing Opportunities and Resources

Most dealers will need to learn to do more with less and to focus on quality over quantity.  Communication that targets the best opportunities and lowest hanging fruit in a dealer’s own database is ripe for the picking! 

TIP: The most successful dealers will take the handoff from marketing and plug into their own resources to maximize these opportunities.  This can take the form of the dealership’s BDC or other outbound calling to be yet another “touch” on the way to conversion.

I believe that understanding the areas of concern covered and the potential opportunities associated with them is central to recovery despite constrictions in the market as a result of the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19. If you read something that sparks an idea with you, I encourage you to take a fresh look at what 3 Birds has to offer. We also love to brainstorm about the business objectives and marketing initiatives you’ve established for your dealership and how to advance them. Let's schedule a strategy session soon!

Kristen Judd