By Alexi Venneri
Ten years ago the Great Recession hit the automotive industry hard, resulting in the federal Cash for Clunkers program, bailouts, and bankruptcies. Today, we are in the midst of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, forcing many dealerships to physically close doors, but also quickly adapt to operating virtually, with remote or limited staff and new safety measures in place. Additionally, many factories closed for up to three months because of health and safety issues, which has now created a vehicle shortage.
I started Digital Air Strike during the Great Recession after finding myself out of work when my business partner closed our agency in the midst of OEM bankruptcies and dealership shutdowns. I knew that even though advertising budgets had been cut dramatically, dealerships still needed to reach consumers — much like today. Ten years ago, social media was just starting to be used in business-to-consumer communication. This was before business pages even existed on Facebook. Consumers were there first — in droves. At the time, it occurred to me that social media could be a way to go where consumers were, instead of spending far too much money using traditional advertising to try to attract consumers to a static dealership website. So Digital Air Strike was founded to help dealers monetize the low-cost reach, engagement, and opportunity of social media, even before there was any advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Instagram wasn’t even founded until later that year. At the time, we decided to leverage technology and embrace all forms of innovation while doing whatever it took to get the attention of consumers, and it worked.
Today, we have grown to over 150 employees that work with more than 5,000 dealership and OEM clients nationwide. Once the pandemic hit, our team had flashbacks to the importance of leveraging technology and being quick to adopt new processes and tools to connect with consumers on behalf of our dealers. We are finding that dealers are even more receptive to using new technology, including video and AI, to communicate with customers in new ways that include engaging with them and converting consumers into customers in an all-virtual environment.
While the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly been tough for everyone, both personally and professionally, there are a number of ways our industry can mitigate the downturn and come out of this period stronger than ever. Yes, even with low inventories and dealer showrooms running with fewer employees, there are advantages that our industry can leverage today so we come back faster than during the Great Recession.
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