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TRADER’s first virtual Carology event of 2021 may go down as the most data oriented and strategy focused Carology event yet! Following a year of challenges and disruptions posed by the pandemic came heaps of data and insights to better understand shifts in consumer shopping behaviour and trialing new strategies to find successful and safe ways to operate. All these findings, and more, were unpacked by automotive industry experts who offered up their own experience and knowledge to create a complete guide to evaluating and enhancing dealership operations, both now and in the future.

The flagship online event was hosted by Ian MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer at TRADER Corporation. Ian was joined by four key speakers including, Bryan Segal, Vice President Commercial, Comscore, Cathie Pattinson, Dealer Principal, One Price Used Car Superstore, Baris Akyurek, Director Marketing Intelligence at TRADER Corporation, and, keynote speaker, Andrew Tai, CEO of Motoinsight.

TRADER Carology opened with an overview of Canadian consumer shopping behaviour and trends. Baris Akyurek shared reports published by RBC Economics, that looked at consumer spending habits over the past 3 years, which revealed a tangible increase. Specifically, in the automotive industry, there was a spike in spending on gasoline over the past year, as more people avoided use of ride share or public transit. This came as no surprise, as research results on display at last years’ Carology event demonstrated the increase in desire to own a vehicle over other methods of transportation.

What was most notable for dealers was that RBC’s study revealed an increase in household savings since the start of the pandemic, and, 64% of Canadians plan to use this money to purchase a vehicle. Baris’ forecast shared that as vaccines continue to roll out, an improvement in economic outlook will follow, which combined, are likely to fuel new vehicle purchases later in the year.

Bryan Segal from Comscore provided a more granular view of car shopping trends and preferences, as well as performance of online automotive marketplaces. Bryan’s session was loaded with valuable data and insights, revealing how Canadians are increasingly moving towards using multiple devices to consume online content, with mobile devices leading the charge with time spent online. Specifically, 78% of the Canadian digital audience accessed the internet through a mobile device, demonstrating the increasing importance of making specific considerations for mobile when thinking about your dealership’s online presence.

Looking into where consumers are online, Bryan shared that 41% of Canadians visited online automotive resources in February 2021. was the most popular site used, reaching 14.2% of Canadians, followed by Kijiji Autos at 9.8%, at 5.4%, at 4.9% and Internet Brands – Automotive at 4.1%.

Bryan concluded his session with an overview of how car shopper intentions have changed over the past year, providing a promising outlook for Canadian car dealers. Comscore found that 55% of intenders said the pandemic did not change their timeline to purchase a vehicle, while 27% claim the pandemic did not change their plans to purchase. What’s even more encouraging is that 13% of respondents said their time to purchase may be shorter, resulting from numerous factors, including new customer assistance for vehicle purchases, fluctuations in COVID case numbers, and an overall erosion of trust with public transportation, thus encouraging vehicle purchase considerations.

The next speaker was a first at a Carology event, with one of TRADER’s dealer partners joining to share first-hand experience of specific strategies and tactics to overcome challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cathie Pattinson, from One Price Used Car Superstore, took the audience through the difficult changes she and her husband needed to make in order to re-strategize their business and drive success following a 7-week closure of their store. She walked through step-by-step changes they rolled out, which included acquiring vehicles online instead of using in-person auctions, changing their operational structure, and cutting costs where they could. She encouraged dealers to not be afraid of change and to leverage the arsenal of tools and resources to adapt and overcome any challenge they may face. Embracing change and rolling out strategic improvement to their dealership operations resulted in immediate success, with multiple months of profits that Cathie’s business had never experienced before.

The final address of the day was from keynote speaker Andrew Tai, CEO of Motoinsight. Andrew is a strong believer in further digitizing the automotive vertical to provide consumers additional options to shop online, by embracing and emulating specific components of the approach leveraged by online giants from other industries. Andrew outlined the way online marketplace giants like Carvana and Amazon operate online today, translating the specifics into practical tips for Canadian car dealers looking to offer more to online consumers.

He broke down the way consumers want to shop into three categories: (i) those who want to complete the entire process online, (ii) those who want to shop on their own terms, both online and in-store, and, (iii) those who want to be up-close with the end product, exclusively shopping in store. In a very relatable format, Andrew described what is often termed the omni-channel experience – an experience he encourages dealers to offer to their prospective buyers, to not only maximize their reach, but, moreover, appeal to every car buyer persona and the specific preferences aligned to each.

The best way to summarize the tips that Andrew shared for dealers to emulate from Amazon and Carvana’s is through a check list:

  • High quality merchandising
  • Transparent and competitive pricing
  • Seamless and convenient online and in-store shopping experience
  • Be confident in your product and experience
  • Promote special or unique offerings
  • Exposure online is fundamental
  • Build trust by leveraging third-party marketplaces and reviews

To hear more about all the exclusive data and advice that was shared throughout the event, check out the video below. There are many more tips to uncover that you can implement in your business to meet consumer needs, innovate your business, and, ultimately, make 2021 your most successful year yet!