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WITH the UK in lockdown due to coronavirus, this month could see
unprecedented numbers of consumers having to negotiate the return or replacement of
vehicles financed on expiring three-year PCP deals.

This is because more cars were registered (562,337 units) in March 2017 than in any single month in UK history.

Marketing Delivery argues that with showrooms and workshops closing,
and with dealer headcounts depleted through illness, automated customer communication via email campaigns and social media tools is essential to manage the anticipated rise in inquiry volumes.

Early indications from Marketing Delivery’s latest data suggest that growing numbers of
customers are turning to social media already.

One large dealer group has seen the number of impressions on its Facebook posts grow by 80% since the government advised people to stay at home – from 656,070 (6-15 March 2020) to 1,179,615 (16-25 March).

The total reach of the group’s posts has also grown by 70% in that time, while the number of engaged users has increased by 18%.*

Marketing Delivery Managing Director Jeremy Evans, said: “Even though dealer facilities are closed and consumers are in lockdown, the agreements that commenced in spring 2017 will still need to be settled in some form over the coming
weeks.

“Many thousands more customers will need to have the new temporary MOT rules explained to them.

“As well as the need for increased outbound communications, dealers are already seeing a very significant rise in online and social media inquiries, particularly with physical showroom visits on hold and many customers confined to their homes.”

Evans believes this is only set to rise in the weeks ahead. “Every resulting inquiry needs to be followed up if car retailers are to bounce back successfully when movement restrictions are lifted.

“Those adopting a digital contact strategy, underpinned by automated email and social media interactions with customers, are most likely to sustain strong customer relationships and bounce back when life returns to normal.”

Email campaigns

Email will have a key role to play in engaging with prospects in the weeks ahead.

Marketing Delivery research has found that email is the most preferred channel to hear from dealers for car sales (47.6% of customers), and for MOTs and servicing work (48.3%) – far more than for any other communications method.

Automated electronic customer relationship (eCRM) tools enable sales staff to send volumes of relevant and personalised communications to existing customers and qualified prospects – and then direct responses back into the sales funnel – taking the burden off staff.

When customers turn to social media those with a strong social presence are set to benefit, with house-bound prospective customers more likely to spending time browsing social media or online classifieds.

Around 40 million people in the UK already visit Facebook at least once a month, while 80% of those access it more than once a day [source: Facebook IQ] – figures which are already showing signs of increasing during this prolonged period of self-isolation.

Facebook’s targeting functionality makes it a good platform for lead generation, customer conquest and communication.

Marketing Delivery’s SocialStock tool enables dealers to automatically maintain an up-to-date Facebook ‘product catalogue’, populated by a stock feed taken directly from their website.

Once this is set up, it’s easy to populate organic and paid-for adverts, and use
targeting tools to promote posts to relevant audiences.

By integrating eCRM technology into their contact strategy, businesses can ensure they cancontinue reaching out to consumers, even with the showroom closed.

Personal finance

The Personal Finance Society has written to the Financial Conduct Authority and HM Treasury outlining actions the regulator and government could take to help the profession help clients in need of financial advice.

The communication outlines suggested changes to regulatory requirements that would allow financial advisers to continue working during a period when demand for their help has never been greater, yet pressure on their own resources are stretched.

The communication includes calls for the regulator to confirm that government business loans won’t breach a firm’s capital adequacy requirements. It also wants to see the introduction of a four-month waiver for advice firms searching for professional indemnity insurance.

There is evidence availability of cover continues to reduce and renewals are being seriously impacted by current lockdown measures introduced by the government to slowdown the spread of the coronavirus.

The professional body has also asked for HM Treasury to consider acting as reinsurer of last resort for professional indemnity insurance ahead of a wider PII/Financial Services Compensation Scheme funding review.

Independent garages

Independent garages are working hard to fulfil the demand for MOTs, following the Department for Transport’s (DfT) announcement of a six month exemption for tests as part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BookMyGarage, the online price comparison booking platform, recorded an 80% rise in MOT bookings as owners with cars due a test, up to and including 29 March, faced the prospect of not having road legal vehicles from next Monday.

MOT centres and garages are among the businesses exempted from the government shutdown of non-essential activities announced on Monday to enable motorists to shop for basic necessities; use vehicles for medical needs, including caring for the vulnerable; and for essential users to travel to and from work.

Despite many businesses closing for the next three weeks, there are currently 47% of garages open on BookMyGarage.  

……and finally

Remember, people should stay at home and avoid travel. The only reasons people should leave their homes is set out in the government guidance.