Ford Bolsters Online Shopping Tools for Dealers
In order to keep dealerships functional during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ford has been rolling out online tools and guidelines. These are designed to help make life easier for dealers and customers shopping for new vehicles or needing service. This shift could serve as a precursor to long-term changes that will allow dealers to adapt as customers continue to carry out more of the car-buying process online.
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“We know many customers still prefer to come into the dealer showroom, but a growing number in many countries say they’re comfortable buying a vehicle online,” said Ford Global Digital Manager Scott Kelly. “We’re seeing customer behaviors change across the board to leverage convenient services and online options, and these trends are likely to continue even after the crisis.”
Adoption of online services widespread at Ford dealerships
Ford was quick to urge its dealers to move business online and implement procedures like remote pickup and delivery for customers needing their vehicles serviced. At present, around 89 percent of Ford’s 3,000 dealers have followed suit. This followed a March rollout of a digital COVID-19 toolkit featuring resources and guidelines to help dealers continue operating in some capacity with customer and staff safety in mind. By turning to social media and moving operations online, dealers have been able to stay engaged with customers.
Remote delivery was also pushed forward as an option for customers purchasing new vehicles, allowing most of the process to move online and minimize contact. According to Ford Motor Company Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Service Mark LaNeve, utilization rates for this service are increasing over the past few weeks with 92 percent of dealers offering the service. Ford will continue to use contactless delivery with vehicles like the upcoming Mustang Mach-E.
About 93 percent of Ford dealers offer online sales tools like virtual walkarounds, chat functionality to more easily get in touch with a dealer representative, and the ability to fill out and sign documents online. Rolling out these tools, LaNeve says, puts Ford dealers in a better position to recover as the country gradually reopens and to adapt to changes in customer behaviors.
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Moving sales and service online bodes well for the future
LaNeve also notes that the company has seen a major uptick in online sales leads and credit applications since March. Ford responded in the early days of the crisis by launching its Built to Lend a Hand initiative, which gives new customers who opt to finance through Ford Credit up to six months of payment relief.
Though much is uncertain in the days, weeks, and months ahead, LaNeve is certain that its relationship with dealers will emerge from the crisis stronger and more malleable to the needs of customers.