For example, when COVID19 kept customers at home, each product adviser created a library of walk-around videos of new vehicles. This, Cluney said, “gave our phone and online leads as close to an in-person experience as possible.”
The personalized videos, which the dealership calls selfie videos, allow sales advisers to introduce themselves to customers. They then conduct a video featuring the vehicle of interest.
Beyond creating a seamless virtual process for customers, the dealership’s goal was to set itself apart from competitors, Cluney said.
“It doesn’t take much to beat an automated response,” he said, “but we wanted to take it a step further by accompanying our follow-up with links to these videos.”
The personalized video was a consistent part of Western Kia’s sales process over the past year and Cluney said it contributed to the store’s growth despite COVID-19’s economic fallout.
The dealership continues to update the sales staff’s digital-content libraries as new vehicles arrive and has since incorporated videoconferencing apps such as FaceTime, Skype or Microsoft Teams.
AN INDUSTRY EDUCATION
Despite inventory shortages caused in large part by the ongoing global scarcity of microchips, Western Kia preserved sales by educating clients about industry trends and keeping them up to date on their vehicle’s expected arrival, Cluney said. The dealership will send customers articles “we feel are relevant that give a third-party perspective on what’s happening in the industry, so they feel informed and have realistic expectations.
“These vehicles are out of sight, but it’s important to not let them slip out of mind,” Cluney said. Some customers have had to wait as long as six months for delivery, he said.
Typically, Western Kia will have 60 to 80 new vehicles on the lot, but that fell to 30 or fewer during the pandemic. In early August, the store had just 16 vehicles available.
In a bid to create a sense of ownership “along with a little fun” throughout the purchasing process, the dealership recently began mailing a celebratory “Congrats, it’s a Kia” birth certificate to the customer once the vehicle is assigned an identification number, Cluney said.
DIGITAL TOOLS ARE JUST TOOLS
Western Kia launched its digital retailing platform in 2018, applying it first to used-vehicle sales but ramping it up during the pandemic.
“We had the right tools and resources already in place,” Cluney said. “So when the pandemic hit, it was an easier transition to start leaning even heavier into this direction.”
Dealership consultant Dominic Sigouin, president of Montreal-based Noahvik Consultants, credits Western Kia for recognizing that effective digital efforts focus on the “customer journey.”
“Digital retailing is not the solution; it is just a tool,” Sigouin said. “It is all about the process and what you want it to do for the customer journey.”
The dealership also produces all of its online marketing videos and commercials in-house — a move that since 2018 has reduced advertising costs on average by 54 per cent, to $236 per unit sold. The ads are also posted across the dealership’s social channels.
Cluney, the general manager, acknowledged that being in a relatively remote, rural area with little competition nearby helps minimize the need for ad spending.
As well as Kia vehicles, the ads often feature the customers and their families pursuing traditional Newfoundland activities such as a “boil-up” — food cooked over an open fire on the beach.
“We try to use every option to embed in the community,” said Dealer Principal Melendy.
As of the first week of August, the boil-up video had generated about 11,000 views on YouTube and 15,000 on Western Kia’s Facebook page.
This year, Western Kia produced three Super Bowl ads, which were broadcast across the Atlantic region.
While the dealership is emphasizing online advertising, TV ads remain part of its marketing strategy, Melendy said.
“We do not have a young population in Newfoundland, and most of the population still watches the TV evening news,” she said.
Cluney said he doesn’t pretend that he and his team have all the answers during these unprecedented times. “Although we found some things that worked for us ... there were a lot of failures as well. I think the biggest difference was the fact that we weren’t afraid to make mistakes or get something wrong.
“We failed fast, adapted and continued forward.”