With social distancing continuing indefinitely and many states still on stay-at-home orders, automakers have increasingly encouraged customers to shop online.
References to online car shopping have “increased dramatically” since a state of emergency was declared over COVID-19, according to Advertising Analytics.
The company did not find any ads that offered language about online shopping prior to the week of March 16. For the last week of April, 33 unique ads referenced options to shop online, and they aired more than 30,000 times.
Between March 16 and May 8, Chevrolet spent $25.6 million on 94,200 airings of its pandemic messaging, which included a reference to online shopping, per Advertising Analytics.
“When we face adversity, we find a way through it,” according to the Chevrolet voiceover. “It's about taking care of each other. It's the small parts that make a big difference. You may even shop online and take delivery at home where available. It's just our way of doing our part.”
For the same time period, Hyundai spent $15.5 million on its COVID-19 messaging, which aired 53,100 times and included this voiceover: “Together, we can create a safer, better car buying experience.”
A pandemic-toned ad for both Buick and GMC brands cost the two divisions $7.1 million to air 29,400 times. It included the messaging: “You may have the option to shop online and take delivery at home with shop click drive.”
Toyota started piloting a new sales tool last fall called SmartPath. It allows customers to do as much as they want online, from searching for a specific vehicle at a specific price online, to estimating payments, to evaluating their trade, according to the automaker.
Then, when they come to the showroom to finalize the deal, they can pick up exactly where they left off at home — collaborating with the sales consultant with the aid of the Mobile Sales Tool app on an iPad.
“The key to it all is making the transition from the virtual world of clicks to the real world of bricks completely seamless,” according to Toyota. “Other automakers have tried to deliver on this promise by building systems from the top down. Toyota, by contrast, developed SmartPath in close partnership with its dealers. So it’s a solution that’s emerged far more from the bottom up.”